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WANDERING 
GHOSTS 



in 



F: MARION 
G RAW FORD 



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WANDEEING GHOSTS 



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THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

NEW YORK • BOSTON • CHICAGO 
SAN FRANCISCO 

MACMILLAN & CO., Limited 

LONDON • BOMBAY • CALCUTTA 
MELBOURNE 

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd. 

TORONTO 



WANDERING GHOSTS 



BY 

F. MARION CRAWFORD 

AUTHOR OP " SARACINESCA," "A ROMAN 
SINGER," ETC. 



WITH FRONTISPIECE 



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

1911 

All rights reserved 






COPTEIGHT, 1S94, 

By G. p. PUTNAM'S SONS. 

COPTEIGHT, 1899, 

Bt steeet and smith. 

COPYEIGHT, 1903, 

By F. MARION CEAWFOED 

AND 

By the MACMILLAN COMPANY. 

COPTBIQHT, 1905 AND 1908, 

By p. F. COLLIER AND SON. 

COPYBI&HT, 1911, 

By the MACMILLAN COMPANY. 



Set up and electrotyped. Published March, zgxz. 



^£ii-iO uD((hur 



TTorfeootr 5Pre8g 

J. 8. Cusbing Co. - Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



THE DEAD SMILE 


1 


THE SCREAMING SKULL . . • , 


. 41 


MAN overboard! 


. 97 


FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 


. 165 


THE UPPER BERTH . . . • , 


. 195 


BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 


. 235 


THE doll's GHOST , . . • 


. 279 



THE DEAD SMILE 



THE DEAD SMILE 



CHAPTER I 

SiE Hugh Ockram smiled as he sat by the open 
window of his study, in the late August after- 
noon ; and just then a curiously yellow cloud 
obscured the low sun, and the clear summer light 
turned lurid, as if it had been suddenly poisoned 
and polluted by the foul vapours of a plague. Sir 
Hugh's face seemed, at best, to be made of fine 
parchment drawn skin-tight over a wooden mask, 
in which two eyes were sunk out of sight, and 
peered from far within through crevices under the 
slanting, wrinkled lids, alive and watchful like 
two toads in their holes, side by side and exactly 
alike. But as the light changed, then a little 
yellow glare flashed in each. Nurse Macdonald 
said once that when Sir Hugh smiled he saw the 
faces of two women in hell — two dead women 
he had betrayed. (Nurse Macdonald was a hun- 
dred years old.) And the smile widened, stretch- 
ing the pale lips across the discoloured teeth in 

3 



4 WANDERING GHOSTS 

an expression of profound self-satisfaction, blended 
with the most unforgiving hatred and contempt 
for the human doll. The hideous disease of which 
he was dying had touched his brain. His son 
stood beside him, tall, white and dehcate as an 
angel in a primitive picture ; and though there 
was deep distress in his violet eyes as he looked 
at his father's face, he felt the shadow of that 
sickening smile stealing across his own lips and 
parting them and drawing them against his will. 
And it was like a bad dream, for he tried not to 
smile and smiled the more. Beside him, strangely 
like him in her wan, angelic beauty, with the 
same shadowy golden hair, the same sad violet 
eyes, the same luminously pale face, Evelyn War- 
burton rested one hand upon his arm. And as 
she looked into her uncle's eyes, and could not 
turn her own away, she knew that the deathly 
smile was hovering on her own red lips, drawing 
them tightly across her little teeth, while two 
bright tears ran down her cheeks to her mouth, 
and dropped from the upper to the lower lip while 
she smiled — and the smile was like the shadow 
of death and the seal of damnation upon her pure, 
young face. 

" Of course," said Sir Hugh very slowly, and 
still looking out at the trees, " if you have made 
up your mind to be married, I cannot hinder you, 



THE DEAD SMILE 5 

and I don't suppose you attach the smallest im- 
portance to my consent " 

" Father ! " exclaimed Gabriel reproachfully. 

"No; I do not deceive myself," continued the 
old man, smiling terribly. " You will marry when 
I am dead, though there is a very good reason why 
you had better not — ^why you had better not," he 
repeated very emphatically, and he slowly turned 
his toad eyes upon the lovers. 

"What reason?" asked Evelyn in a frightened 
voice. 

"Never mind the reason, my dear. You will 
marry just as if it did not exist." There was a 
long pause. " Two gone," he said, his voice lower- 
ing strangely, " and two more will be four — all 
together — for ever and ever, burning, burning, 
burning bright." 

At the last words his head sank slowly back, 
and the little glare of the toad eyes disappeared 
under the swollen lids ; and the lurid cloud passed 
from the westering sun, so that the earth was green 
again and the light pure. Sir Hugh had fallen 
asleep, as he often did in his last illness, even while 
speaking. 

Gabriel Ockram drew Evelyn away, and from 
the study they went out into the dim hall, softly 
closing the door behind them, and each audibly 
drew breath, as though some sudden danger had 



6 WANDERING GHOSTS 

been passed. They laid their hands each in the 
other's^ and their strangely-hke eyes met in a long 
look, in which love and perfect understanding were 
darkened bv the secret terror of an unknown thino;. 
Their pale faces reflected each other's fear. 

" It is his secret," said Evelyn at last. " He will 
never tell us what it is." 

'^ If he dies with it," answered Gabriel, " let it 
be on his own head ! " 

" On his head ! " echoed the dim hall. It was a 
strange echo, and some were frightened by it, for 
they said that if it were a real echo it should re- 
peat everything and not give back a phrase here 
and there, now speaking, now silent. But Nurse 
Macdonald said that the great hall would never 
echo a prayer when an Ockram was to die, though 
it would give back curses ten for one. 

"On his head ! " it repeated quite softly, and 
Evelyn started and looked round. 

" It is only the echo," said Gabriel, leading her 
away. 

They went out into the late afternoon light, and 
sat upon a stone seat behind the chapel, which was 
built across the end of the east wing. It was very 
still, not a breath stirred, and there was no sound 
near them. Only far oE in the park a song-bird 
was whistling the high prelude to the evening 
chorus. 



THE DEAD SMILE 7 

"It is very lonely here/' said Evelyn, taking 
Gabriel's hand nervously, and speaking as if she 
dreaded to disturb the silence. " If it were dark, 
I should be afraid." 

" Of what ? Of me ? " Gabriel's sad eyes turned 
to her. 

" Oh no ! How could I be afraid of you ? But 
of the old Ockrams — they say they are just under 
our feet here in the north vault outside the chapel, 
all in their shrouds, with no coffins, as they used to 
bury them." 

" As they always will — as they will bury my 
father, and me. They say an Ockram will not lie 
in a coffin." 

" But it cannot be true — these are fairy tales — 
ghost stories ! " Evelyn nestled nearer to her 
companion, grasping his hand more tightly, and 
the sun began to go down. 

" Of course. But there is the story of old Sir 
Vernon, who was beheaded for treason under James 
II. The family brought his body back from the 
scaffold in an iron coffin with heavy locks, and 
they put it in the north vault. But ever after- 
wards, whenever the vault was opened to bury an- 
other of the family, they found the coffin wide 
open, and the body standing upright against the 
wall, and the head rolled away in a corner, smiling 
at it." 



8 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" As Uncle Hugh smiles ? " Evelyn shivered. 

" Yes, I suppose so/' answered Gabriel, thought- 
fully. " Of course I never saw it, and the vault 
has not been opened for thirty years — none of us 
have died since then/' 

"And if — if Uncle Hugh dies — shall you '' 

Evelyn stopped, and her beautiful thin face was 
quite white. 

" Yes. I shall see him laid there too — with his 
secret, whatever it is." Gabriel sighed and pressed 
the girl's little hand. 

" I do not like to think of it," she said unsteadily. 
" Gabriel, what can the secret be ? He said we 
had better not marry — not that he forbade it — but 
he said it so strangely, and he smiled — ugh! " Her 
small white teeth chattered with fear, and she looked 
over her shoulder while drawing still closer to Ga- 
briel. "And, somehow, I felt it in my own face — " 

" So did I," answered Gabriel in a low, ner- 
vous voice. "Nurse Macdonald " He stopped 

abruptly. 

"What? What did she say?" 

" Oh — nothing. She has told me things — they 
would frighten you, dear. Come, it is growing 
chilly." He rose, but Evelyn held his hand in both 
of hers, still sitting and looking up into his face. 

" But we shall be married, just the same — 
Gabriel J Say that we shall ! " 



THE DEAD SMILE 9 

^^Of course, darling — of course. But while 
my father is so very ill, it is impossible " 

" Gabriel, Gabriel, dear ! I wish we were 
married now ! " cried Evelyn in sudden distress. 
" I know that something will prevent it and keep 
us apart." 

" Nothing shall I " 

" Nothing ? " 

"Nothing human," said Gabriel Ockram, as 
she drew him down to her. 

And their faces, that were so strangely alike, 
met and touched — and Gabriel knew that the 
kiss had a marvellous savour of evil, but on 
Evelyn's lips it was like the cool breath of a 
sweet and mortal fear. And neither of them 
understood, for they were innocent and young. 
Yet she drew him to her by her lightest touch, 
as a sensitive plant shivers and waves its thin 
leaves, and bends and closes softly upon what 
it wants ; and he let himself be drawn to her 
willingly, as he would if her touch had been 
deadly and poisonous ; for she strangely loved 
that half voluptuous breath of fear, and he pas- 
sionately desired the nameless evil something that 
lurked in her maiden lips. 

" It is as if we loved in a strange dream/' she 
said. 

'^ I fear the waking," he murmured. 



10 WANDERING GHOSTS 

^^We shall not wake, dear — when the dream 
is over it will have already turned into death, 
so softly that we shall not know it. But until 
then " 

She paused, and her eyes sought his, and their 
faces slowly came nearer. It was as if they had 
thoughts in their red lips that foresaw and fore- 
knew the deep kiss of each other. 

" Until then " she said again, very low, 

and her mouth was nearer to his. 

"Dream — till then," murmured his breath. 



CHAPTER II 



Nurse Macdonald was a hundred years old. 
She used to sleep sitting all bent together in a 
great old leathern arm-chair with wings, her feet 
in a bag footstool lined with sheepskin, and many 
warm blankets wrapped about her, even in sum- 
mer. Beside her a little lamp always burned at 
night by an old silver cup, in which there was 
something to drink. 

Her face was very wrinkled, but the wrinkles 
were so small and fine and near together that 
they made shadows instead of lines. Two thin 
locks of hair, that was turning from white to a 
smoky yellow again, were drawn over her temples 



THE DEAD SMILE 11 

from under her starched white cap. Every now 
and then she woke^ and her eyelids were drawn 
up in tiny folds lil^e little pink silk curtains, and 
her queer blue eyes looked straight before her 
through doors and walls and worlds to a far place 
beyond. Then she slept again, and her hands lay 
one upon the other on the edge of the blanket; 
the thumbs had grown longer than the fingers 
with age, and the joints shone in the low lamp- 
light like polished crab-apples. 

It was nearly one o'clock in the night, and 
the summer breeze was blowing the ivy branch 
against the panes of the window with a hushing 
caress. In the small room beyond, with the door 
ajar, the girl-maid who took care of Nurse Mac- 
donald was fast asleep. All was very quiet. The 
old woman breathed regularly, and her indrawn 
lips trembled each time as the breath went out, 
and her eyes were shut. 

But outside the closed window there was a 
face, and violet eyes were looking steadily at the 
ancient sleeper, for it was like the face of Evelyn 
Warburton, though there were eighty feet from 
the sill of the window to the foot of the tower. 
Yet the cheeks were thinner than Evelyn's, and 
as white as a gleam, and the eyes stared, and the 
lips were not red with life; they were dead, and 
painted with new blood. 



12 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Slowly Nurse Macdonald's wrinkled eyelids 
folded themselves back, and she looked straight at 
the face at the window while one might count ten. 

" Is it time ? " she asked in her little old, far- 
away voice. 

While she looked the face at the window changed, 
for the eyes opened wider and wider till the white 
glared all round the bright violet, and the bloody 
lips opened over gleaming teeth, and stretched 
and widened and stretched again, and the shad- 
owy golden hair rose and streamed against the 
window in the night breeze. And in answer to 
Nurse Macdonald's question came the sound that 
freezes the living flesh. 

That low-moaning voice that rises suddenly, 
like the scream of storm, from a moan to a wail, 
from a wail to a howl, from a howl to the fear- 
shriek of the tortured dead — he who has heard 
knows, and he can bear witness that the cry of 
the banshee is an evil cry to hear alone in the 
deep night. When it was over and the face was 
gone, Nurse Macdonald shook a little in her great 
chair, and still she looked at the black square of 
the window, but there was nothing more there, 
nothing but the night, and the whispering ivy 
branch. She turned her head to the door that 
was ajar, and there stood the girl in her white 
gown, her teeth chattering with fright. 



THE DEAD SMILE ; 13 

" It is time, child/' said Nurse Macdonald. " I 
must go to him, for it is the end." 

She rose slowly, leaning her withered hands 
upon the arms of the chair, and the girl brought 
her a woollen gown and a great mantle, and 
her crutch-stick, and made her ready. But very 
often the girl looked at the window and was 
unjointed with fear, and often Nurse Macdonald 
shook her head and said words which the maid 
could not understand. 

"It was like the face of Miss Evelyn/' said 
the girl at last, trembling. 

But the ancient woman looked up sharply 
and angrily, and her queer blue eyes glared. 
She held herself by the arm of the great chair 
with her left hand, and lifted up her crutch- 
stick to strike the maid with all her might. 
But she did not. 

" You are a good girl/' she said, " but you 
are a fool. Pray for wit, child, pray for wit — 
or else find service in another house than Ockram 
Hall. Bring the lamp and help me under my 
left arm." 

The crutch-stick clacked on the wooden floor, 
and the low heels of the woman's slippers clap- 
pered after her in slow triplets, as Nurse Mac- 
donald got toward the door. And down the stairs 
each step she took was a labour in itself, and by 



14 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the clacking noise the waking servants knew 
that she was coming, very long before they saw 
her. 

No one was sleeping now, and there were lights, 
and whisperings, and pale faces in the corridors 
near Sir Hugh's bedroom, and now some one 
went in, and now some one came out, but every 
one made way for Nurse Macdonald, who had 
nursed Sir Hugh's father more than eighty years 
ago. 

The light was soft and clear in the room. 
There stood Gabriel Ockram by his father's bed- 
side, and there knelt Evelyn Warburton, her hair 
lying like a golden shadow down her shoulders, 
and her hands clasped nervously together. And 
opposite Gabriel, a nurse was trying to make Sir 
Hugh drink. But he would not, and though his 
lips were parted, his teeth were set. He was 
very, very thin and yellow now, and his eyes 
caught the light sideways and were as yellow 
coals. 

" Do not torment him," said Nurse Macdonald 
to the woman who held the cup. " Let me speak 
to him, for his hour is come." 

" Let her speak to him," said Gabriel in a dull 
voice. 

So the ancient woman leaned to the pillow 
and laid the feather-weight of her withered hand, 



THE DEAD SMILE 15 

that was like a brown moth, upon Sir Hugh's 
yellow fingers, and she spoke to him earnestly, 
while only Gabriel and Evelyn were left in the 
room to hear. 

" Hugh Ockram,'' she said, " this is the end 
of your life; and as I saw you born, and saw 
your father born before you, I am come to see 
you die. Hugh Ockram, will you tell me the 
truth ? " 

The dying man recognised the little faraway 
voice he had known all his life, and he very 
slowly turned his yellow face to Nurse Mac- 
donald ; but he said nothing. Then she spoke 
again. 

" Hugh Ockram, you will never see the daylight 
again. Will you tell the truth ? " 

His toad-like eyes were not yet dull. They 
fastened themselves on her face. 

" What do you want of me ? " he asked, and 
each word struck hollow upon the last. " I have 
no secrets. I have lived a good life." 

Nurse Macdonald laughed — a tiny, cracked 
laugh, that made her old head bob and tremble 
a little, as if her neck were on a steel spring. 
But Sir Hugh's eyes grew red, and his pale lips 
began to tv/ist. 

" Let me die in peace," he said slowly. 

But Nurse Macdonald shook her head, and her 



16 WANDERING GHOSTS 

brown, moth-like hand left his and fluttered to 
his forehead. 

"By the mother that bore you and died of 
grief for the sins you did, tell me the truth ! '* 

Sir Hugh's lips tightened on his discoloured 
teeth. 

" Not on earth," he answered slowly. 

" By the wife who bore your son and died heart- 
broken, tell me the truth ! " 

"Neither to you in life, nor to her in eternal 
death." 

His lips writhed, as if the words were coals 
between them, and a great drop of sweat rolled 
across the parchment of his forehead. Gabriel 
Ockram bit his hand as he watched his father 
die. But Nurse Macdonald spoke a third time. 

"By the woman whom you betrayed, and who 
waits for you this night, Hugh Ockram, tell me 
the truth ! " 

" It is too late. Let me die in peace." 

The writhing lips began to smile across the 
set yellow teeth, and the toad eyes glowed like 
evil jewels in his head. 

" There is time," said the ancient woman. 
" Tell me the name of Evelyn Warburton's father. 
Then I will let you die in peace." 

Evelyn started back, kneeling as she was, and 
stared at Nurse Macdonald, and then at her uncle. 



THE DEAD SMILE 17 

" The name of Evelyn's father ? " he repeated 
slowly, while the awful smile spread upon his 
dying face. 

The light was growing strangely dim in the 
great room. As Evelyn looked, Nurse Mac- 
donald's crooked shadow on the wall grew gigan- 
tic. Sir Hugh's breath came thick, rattling in 
his throat, as death crept in like a snake and choked 
it back. Evelyn prayed aloud, high and clear. 

Then something rapped at the window, and 
she felt her hair rise upon her head in a cool 
breeze, as she looked around in spite of herself. 
And when she saw her own white face looking 
in at the window, and her own eyes staring at 
her through the glass, wide and fearful, and her 
own hair streaming against the pane, and her 
own lips dashed with blood, she rose slowly 
from the floor and stood rigid for one mo- 
ment, till she screamed once and fell straight 
back into Gabriel's arms. But the shriek that 
answered hers was the fear-shriek of the tor- 
mented corpse, out of which the soul cannot 
pass for shame of deadly sins, though the devils 
fight in it with corruption, each for their due share. 

Sir Hugh Ockram sat upright in his death- 
bed, and saw and cried aloud : 

" Evelyn ! " His harsh voice broke and rattled 
in his chest as he sank down. But still Nurse 



18 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Macdonald tortured him, for there was a little 
life left in him still. 

"You have seen the mother as she waits for 
you, Hugh Ockram. Who was this girl Evelyn's 
father ? What was his name ? " 

For the last time the dreadful smile came 
upon the twisted lips, very slowly, very surely 
now, and the toad eyes glared red, and the 
parchment face glowed a little in the flickering 
light. For the last time words came. 

" They know it in hell." 

Then the glowing eyes went out quickly, 
the yellow face turned waxen pale, and a great 
shiver ran through the thin body as Hugh Ock- 
ram died. 

But in death he still smiled, for he knew 
his secret and kept it still, on the other side, 
and he would take it with him, to lie with 
him for ever in the north vault of the chapel 
where the Ockrams lie uncoffined in their shrouds 
— all but one. Though he was dead, he smiled, 
for he had kept his treasure of evil truth to 
the end, and there was none left to tell the 
name he had spoken, but there was all the evil 
he had not undone left to bear fruit. 

As they watched — Nurse Macdonald and 
Gabriel, who held Evelyn still unconscious in 
his arms while he looked at the father — they 



THE DEAD SMILE 19 

felt the dead smile crawling along their own 
lips — the ancient crone and the youth with 
the angel's face. Then they shivered a little, 
and both looked at Evelyn as she lay with her 
head on his shoulder, and, though she was very 
beautiful, the same sickening smile was twisting 
her young mouth too, and it was like the fore- 
shadowing of a great evil which they could not 
understand. 

But by and by they carried Evelyn out, and 
she opened her eyes and the smile was gone. 
From far away in the great house the sound 
of weeping and crooning came up the stairs 
and echoed along the dismal corridors, for the 
women had begun to mourn the dead master, 
after the Irish fashion, and the hall had echoes 
of its own all that night, like the far-off wail of 
the banshee among forest trees. 

When the time was come they took Sir Hugh 
in his winding-sheet on a trestle bier, and bore 
him to the chapel and through the iron door 
and down the long descent to the north vault, 
with tapers, to lay him by his father. And 
two men went in first to prepare the place, 
and came back staggering like drunken men, 
and white, leaving their lights behind them. 

But Gabriel Ockram was not afraid, for he 
knew. And he went in alone and saw that 



20 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the body of Sir Yernon Ockram was leaning 
upright against the stone wall, and that its head 
lay on the ground near by with the face tiu-ned 
up, and the dried leathern lips smiled horribly 
at the dried-up corpse, while the iron cofhn, 
lined with black velvet, stood open on the floor. 

Then Gabriel took the thing in his hands, 
for it was very light, being quite dried by 
the air of the vault, and those who peeped in 
from the door saw him lay it in the coffin 
again, and it rustled a little, like a bundle of 
reeds, and sounded hollow as it touched the 
sides and the bottom. He also placed the head 
upon the shoulders and shut down the lid, which 
fell to with a rusty spring that snapped. 

After that they laid Sir Hugh beside his 
father, with the trestle bier on which they had 
brought him, and they went back to the chapel. 

But when they saw one another's faces, 
master and men, they were all smiling with 
the dead smile of the corpse they had left in 
the vault, so that they could not bear to look 
at one another until it had faded away. 



THE DEAD SMILE 21 



CHAPTER III 



Gabriel Ockram became Sir Gabriel, inherit- 
ing the baronetcy with the half-ruined fortune 
left by his father, and still Evelyn Warburton 
lived at Ockram Hall, in the south room that 
had been hers ever since she could remember 
anything. She could not go away, for there 
were no relatives to whom she could have gone, 
and, besides, there seemed to be no reason why 
she should not stay. The world would never 
trouble itself to care what the Ockrams did on 
their Irish estates, and it was long since the 
Ockrams had asked anything of the world. 

So Sir Gabriel took his father's place at the 
dark old table in the dining-room, and Evelyn 
sat opposite to him, until such time as their 
mourning should be over, and they might be 
married at last. And meanwhile their lives 
went on as before, since Sir Hugh had been a 
hopeless invalid during the last year of his life, 
and they had seen him but once a day for a 
little while, spending most of their time together 
in a strangely perfect companionship. 

But though the late summer saddened into 
autumn, and autumn darkened into winter, and 
storm followed storm, and rain poured on rain 



22 WANDERING GHOSTS 

through the short days and the long nights, yet 
Ockram Hall seemed less gloomy since Sir Hugh 
had been laid in the north vault beside his father. 
And at Christmastide Evelyn decked the great hall 
with holly and green boughs, and huge fires blazed 
on every hearth. Then the tenants were all bid- 
den to a New Year's dinner, and they ate and 
drank well, while Sir Gabriel sat at the head 
of the table. Evelyn came in when the port 
wine was brought, and the most respected of 
the tenants made a speech to propose her health. 

It was long, he said, since there had been a 
Lady Ockram. Sir Gabriel shaded his eyes with 
his hand and looked down at the table, but a 
faint colour came into Evelyn's transparent cheeks. 
But, said the grey-haired farmer, it was longer 
still since there had been a Lady Ockram so fair 
as the next was to be, and he gave the health of 
Evelyn Warburton. 

Then the tenants all stood up and shouted 
for her, and Sir Gabriel stood up likewise, be- 
side Evelyn. And when the men gave the last 
and loudest cheer of all there was a voice not 
theirs, above them all, higher, fiercer, louder — 
a scream not earthly, shrieking for the bride of 
Ockram Hall. And the holly and the green 
boughs over the great chimney-piece shook and 
slowly waved as if a cool breeze were blowing 



THE DEAD SMILE 23 

over them. But the men turned very pale, and 
many of them set down then* glasses, but others 
let them fall upon the floor for fear. And look- 
ing into one another's faces, they were all smil- 
ing strangely, a dead smile, like dead Sir Hugh's. 
One cried out words in Irish, and the fear of death 
was suddenly upon them all, so that they fled in 
panic, falling over one another like wild beasts 
in the burning forest, when the thick smoke runs 
along before the flame ; and the tables were over- 
set, and drinking glasses and bottles were broken 
in heaps, and the dark red wine crawled like blood 
upon the polished floor. 

Sir Gabriel and Evelyn stood alone at the 
head of the table before the wreck of the feast, 
not daring to turn to see each other, for each 
knew that the other smiled. But his right arm 
held her and his left hand clasped her right as 
they stared before them; and but for the shad- 
ows of her hair one might not have told their two 
faces apart. They listened long, but the cry came 
not again, and the dead smile faded from their lips, 
while each remembered that Sir Hugh Ockram lay 
in the north vault, smiling in his winding-sheet, in 
the dark, because he had died with his secret. 

So ended the tenants' New Year's dinner. But 
from that time on Sir Gabriel grew more and 
more silent, and his face grew even paler and 



24 WANDERING GHOSTS 

thinner than before. Often, without warning 
and without words, he would rise from his seat, 
as if something moved him against his will, and 
he would go out into the rain or the sunshine to 
the north side of the chapel, and sit on the stone 
bench, staring at the ground as if he could see 
through it, and through the vault below, and 
through the white winding-sheet in the dark, to 
the dead smile that would not die. 

Always when he went out in that way Evelyn 
came out presently and sat beside him. Once, too, 
as in summer, their beautiful faces came suddenly 
near, and their lids drooped, and their red lips 
were almost joined together. But as their eyes 
met, they grew wide and wild, so that the white 
showed in a ring all round the deep violet, and 
their teeth chattered, and their hands were like 
hands of corpses, each in the other's, for the 
terror of what was under their feet, and of what 
they knew but could not see. 

Once, also, Evelyn found Sir Gabriel in the 
chapel alone, standing before the iron door that 
led down to the place of death, and in his hand 
there was the key to the door ; but he had not put 
it into the lock. Evelyn drew him away, shiver- 
ing, for she had also been driven in waking dreams 
to see that terrible thing again, and to find out 
whether it had changed since it had lain there. 



THE DEAD SMILE 25 

" I'm going mad," said Sir Gabriel, covering 
his eyes with his hand as he went with her. 
" I see it in my sleep, I see it when I am awake 
— it draws me to it, day and night — and unless 
I see it I shall die ! " 

" I know," answered Evelyn, " I know. It 
is as if threads were spun from it, like a spi- 
der's, drawing us down to it." She was silent 
for a moment^ and then she started violently 
and grasped his arm with a man's strength, and 
almost screamed the words she spoke. " But we 
must not go there ! " she cried. " We must not 
go! 

Sir Gabriel's eyes were half shut, and he was 
not moved by the agony of her face. 

" I shall die, unless I see it again," he said, in a 
quiet voice not like his own. And all that day 
and that evening he scarcely spoke, thinking of it, 
always thinking, while Evelyn Warburton quivered 
from head to foot with a terror she had never 
known. 

She went alone, on a grey winter's morning, to 
Nurse Macdonald's room in the tower, and sat 
down beside the great leathern easy-chair, laying 
her thin white hand upon the withered fingers. 

"Nurse," she said, "what was it that Uncle 
Hugh should have told you, that night before 
he died ? It must have been an awful secret — 



26 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and yet, though you asked him, I feel somehow 
that you know it, and that you know why he used 
to smile so dreadfully." 

The old woman's head moved slowly from side 
to side. 

" I only guess — I shall never know/' she an- 
swered slowly in her cracked little voice. 

" But what do you guess ? Who am I ? Why 
did you ask who my father was? You know 
I am Colonel Warburton's daughter, and my 
mother was Lady Ockram's sister, so that Gabriel 
and I are cousins. My father was killed in 
Afghanistan. What secret can there be?" 

" I do not know. I can only guess." 

" Guess what ? " asked Evelyn imploringly, and 
pressing the soft withered hands, as she leaned for- 
ward. But Nurse Macdonald's wrinkled lids dropped 
suddenly over her queer blue eyes, and her lips 
shook a little with her breath, as if she were asleep. 

Evelyn waited. By the fire the Irish maid was 
knitting fast, and the needles clicked like three or 
four clocks tickino; ag-ainst each other. And the 
real clock on the wall solemnly ticked alone, check- 
ing off the seconds of the woman who was a hun- 
dred years old, and had not many days left. 
Outside the ivy branch beat the window in the 
wintry blast, as it had beaten against the glass a 
hundred years ago. 



THE DEAD SMILE 27 

Then as Evelyn sat there she felt again the wak- 
ing of a horrible desire — the sickening wish to 
go down, down to the thing in the north vault, 
and to open the winding-sheet, and see whether 
it had changed; and she held Nurse Macdonald's 
hands as if to keep herself in her place and fight 
against the appalling attraction of the evil dead. 

But the old cat that kept Nurse Macdonald's 
feet warm, lying always on the bag footstool, 
got up and stretched itself, and looked up into 
Evelyn's eyes, while its back arched, and its tail 
thickened and bristled, and its ugly pink lips 
drew back in a devilish grin, showing its sharp 
teeth. Evelyn stared at it, half fascinated by 
its ugliness. Then the creature suddenly put 
out one paw with all its claws spread, and 
spat at the girl, and all at once the grinning 
cat was like the smiling corpse far down below, 
so that Evelyn shivered down to her small feet, 
and covered her face with her free hand, lest 
Nurse Macdonald should wake and see the dead 
smile there, for she could feel it. 

The old woman had already opened her eyes 
again, and she touched her cat with the end of 
her crutch-stick, whereupon its back went down 
and its tail shrunk, and it sidled back to its place 
on the bag footstool. But its yellow eyes looked 
up sideways at Evelyn, between the slits of its lids. 



28 WANDERING GHOSTS 

"What is it that you guess, nurse?" asked 
the young girl again. 

"A bad thing — a wicked thing. But I dare 
not tell you, lest it might not be true, and the 
very thought should blast your life. For if I 
guess right, he meant that you should not know, 
and that you two should marry, and pay for his 
old sin with your souls." 

"He used to tell us that we ought not to 
marry " 

" Yes — he told you that, perhaps — but it was 
as if a man put poisoned meat before a starving 
beast, and said ^do not eat,' but never raised 
his hand to take the meat away. And if he 
told you that you should not marry, it was be- 
cause he hoped you would; for of all men liv- 
ing or dead, Hugh Ockram was the falsest man 
that ever told a cowardly lie, and the crudest that 
ever hurt a weak woman, and the worst that ever 
loved a sin." 

" But Gabriel and I love each other," said 
Evelyn very sadly. 

Nurse Macdonald's old eyes looked far away, 
at sights seen long ago, and that rose in the 
grey winter air amid the mists of an ancient 
youth. 

" If you love, you can die together," she said, 
very slowly. " Why should you live, if it is 



THE DEAD SMILE 29 

true? I am a hundred years old. What has 
life given me ? The beginning is fire ; the end 
is a heap of ashes ; and between the end and 
the beginning lies all the pain of the world. 
Let me sleep, since I cannot die." 

Then the old woman's eyes closed again, and 
her head sank a little lower upon her breast. 

So Evelyn went away and left her asleep, 
with the cat asleep on the bag footstool; and 
the yoimg girl tried to forget Nurse Macdonald's 
words, but she could not, for she heard them 
over and over again in the wind, and behind 
her on the stairs. And as she grew sick with 
fear of the frightful unknown evil to which her 
soul was bound, she felt a bodily something 
pressing her, and pushing her, and forcing her 
on, and from the other side she felt the threads 
that drew her mysteriously : and when she shut 
her eyes, she saw in the chapel behind the altar, 
the low iron door through which she must pass 
to go to the thing. 

And as she lay awake at night, she drew the 
sheet over her face, lest she should see shadows 
on the wall beckoning to her; and the sound of 
her own warm breath made whisperings in her 
ears, while she heM the mattress with her hands, 
to keep from getting up and going to the chapel. 
It would have been easier if there had not been 



30 WANDERING GHOSTS 

a way thither through the hbrary, by a door which 
was never locked. It would be fearfully easy to 
take her candle and go softly through the sleep- 
ing house. And the key of the vault lay under 
the altar behind a stone that turned. She knew 
the little secret. She could go alone and see. 

But when she thought of it, she felt her hair 
rise on her head, and first she shivered so that 
the bed shook, and then the horror went through 
her in a cold thrill that was agony again, like 
myriads of icy needles boring into her nerves. 



CHAPTER TV 



The old clock in Nurse Macdonald's tower struck 
midnight. From her room she could hear the 
creaking chains and weights in their box in the 
corner of the staircase, and overhead the jarring 
of the rusty lever that lifted the hammer. She 
had heard it all her life. It struck eleven strokes 
clearly, and then came the twelfth, with a dull 
half stroke, as though the hammer were too weary 
to go on, and had fallen asleep against the bell. 
The old cat got up from the bag footstool 
and stretched itself, and Nurse Macdonald opened 
her ancient eyes and looked slowly round the 



THE DEAD SMILE 31 

room by the dim light of the night lamp. She 
touched the cat with her crutch-stick, and it lay 
down upon her feet. She drank a few drops 
from her cup and went to sleep again. 

But downstairs Sir Gabriel sat straight up as 
the clock struck, for he had dreamed a fearful 
dream of horror, and his heart stood still, till he 
awoke at its stopping, and it beat again furiously 
with his breath, like a wild thing set free. No 
Ockram had ever known fear waking, but some- 
times it came to Sir Gabriel in his sleep. 

He pressed his hands to his temples as he sat up 
in bed, and his hands were icy cold, but his head 
was hot. The dream faded far, and in its place 
there came the master thought that racked his life ; 
with the thought also came the sick twisting of his 
lips in the dark that would have been a smile. 
Far off, Evelyn Warburton dreamed that the dead 
smile was on her mouth, and awoke, starting with 
a little moan, her face in her hands, shivering. 

But Sir Gabriel struck a light and got up and 
began to walk up and down his great room. It 
was midnight, and he had barely slept an hour, 
and in the north of Ireland the winter nights are 
long. 

"I shall go mad," he said to himself, holding his 
forehead. He knew that it was true. For weeks 
and months the possession of the thing had grown 



32 WANDERING GHOSTS 

upon him like a disease, till he could think of 
nothing without thinking first of that. And now 
all at once it outgrew his strength, and he knew 
that he must be its instrument or lose his mind — 
that he must do the deed he hated and feared, if 
he could fear anything, or that something would 
snap in his brain and divide him from life while he 
was yet alive. He took the candlestick in his 
hand, the old-fashioned heavy candlestick that had 
always been used by the head of the house. He 
did not think of dressing, but went as he was, in 
his silk night clothes and his slippers, and he 
opened the door. Everything was very still in the 
great old house. He shut the door behind him and 
walked noiselessly on the carpet through the long 
corridor. A cool breeze blew over his shoulder and 
blew the flame of his candle straight out from him. 
Instinctively he stopped and looked round, but all 
was still, and the upright flame 'burned steadily. 
He walked on, and instantly a strong draught was 
behind him, almost extinguishing the light. It 
seemed to blow him on his way, ceasing whenever 
he turned, coming again when he went on — in- 
visible, icy. 

Down the great staircase to the echoing hall he 
went, seeing nothing but the flaring flame of the 
candle standing away from him over the guttering 
wax, while the cold wind blew over his shoulder 



THE DEAD SMILE 33 

and throngli his hair. On he passed through the 
open door into the library, dark with old books and 
carved bookcases; on through the door in the 
shelves, with painted shelves on it, and the imitated 
backs of books, so that one needed to know where 
to find it — and it shut itself after him with a soft 
click. He entered the low-arched passage, and 
though the door was shut behind him and fitted 
tightly in its frame, still the cold breeze blew the 
flame forward as he walked. And he was not 
afraid ; but his face was very pale, and his eyes 
were wide and bright, looking before him, seeing 
abeady in the dark air the picture of the thing be- 
yond. But in the chapel he stood still, his hand 
on the little turning stone tablet in the back of the 
stone altar. On the tablet were engraved words : 
'' Clavis sepulchri Claris simorimi Dominoriim De 
OcJcram " — ('' the key to the vault of the most illus- 
trious lords of Ockram''). Sir Gabriel paused and 
listened. He fancied that he heard a sound far ofE 
in the great house where all had been so still, but 
it did not come again. Yet he waited at the last, 
and looked at the low iron door. Beyond it, down 
the long descent, lay his father uncoffined, six 
months dead, corrupt, terrible in his clinging 
shroud. The strangely preserving air of the vault 
could not yet have done its work completely. But 
on the thing's ghastly features, with their half- 



34 WANDERING GHOSTS 

dried, open eyes, there would still be the frightful 
smile with which the man had died — the smile 
that haunted ' 

As the thought crossed Sir GabrieFs mind, he 
felt his lips writhing, and he struck his own mouth 
in wrath with the back of his hand so fiercely that 
a drop of blood ran down his chin, and another, 
and more, falling back in the gloom upon the 
chapel pavement. But still his bruised lips twisted 
themselves. He turned the tablet by the simple 
secret. It needed no safer fastening, for had each 
Ockram been coffined in pure gold, and had the 
door been open wide, there was not a man in Ty- 
rone brave enough to go down to that place, saving 
Gabriel Ockram himself, with his angel's face and 
his thin, white hands, and his sad unflinching eyes. 
He "took the great old key and set it into the lock 
of the iron door; and the heavy, rattling noise 
echoed down the descent beyond like footsteps, as 
if a watcher had stood behind the iron and were 
running away within, with heavy dead feet. And 
though he was standing still, the cool wind was 
from behind him, and blew the flame of the candle 
against the iron panel. He turned the key. 

Sir Gabriel saw that his candle was short. There 
were new ones on the altar, with long candlesticks, 
and he lit one, and left his own burning on the 
floor. As he set it down on the pavement his lip 



THE DEAD SMILE 35 

began to bleed again, and another drop fell upon 
the stones. 

He drew the iron door open and pushed it back 
against the chapel wall, so that it should not shut 
of itself, while he was within ; and the horrible 
draught of the sepulchre came up out of the depths 
in his face, foul and dark. He went in, but though 
the fetid air met him, yet the flame of the tall 
candle was blown straight from him against the 
wind while he walked down the easy incline with 
steady steps, his loose slippers slapping the pave- 
ment as he trod. 

He shaded the candle with his hand, and his 
fingers seemed to be made of wax and blood as the 
light shone through them. And in spite of him 
the unearthly draught forced the flame forward, 
till it was blue over the black wick, and it seemed 
as if it must go out. But he went straight on, with 
shining eyes. 

The downward passage was wide, and he could 
not always see the walls by the struggling light, 
but he knew when he was in the place of death by 
the larger, drearier echo of his steps in the greater 
space, and by the sensation of a distant blank wall. 
He stood still, almost enclosing the flame of the 
candle in the hollow of his hand. He could see a 
little, for his eyes were growing used to the gloom. 
Shadowy forms were outlined in the dimness, where 



36 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the biers of the Ockrams stood crowded together, 
side by side, each with its straight, shrouded corpse, 
strangely preserved by the dry air, like the empty 
shell that the locust sheds in summer. And a few 
steps before him he saw clearly the dark shape of 
headless Sir Vernon's iron coffin, and he knew that 
nearest to it lay the thing he sought. 

He was as brave as any of those dead men had 
been, and they were his fathers, and he knew that 
sooner or later he should lie there himself, beside 
Sir Hugh, slowly drying to a parchment shell. But 
he was still alive, and he closed his eyes a moment, 
and three great drops stood on his forehead. 

Then he looked again, and by the whiteness of 
the winding-sheet he knew his father's corpse, for 
all the others were brown with age ; and, moreover, 
the flame of the candle was blown toward it. He 
made four steps till he reached it, and suddenly the 
light burned straight and high, shedding a dazzling 
yellow glare upon the fine linen that was all white, 
save over the face, and where the joined hands 
were laid on the breast. And at those places ugly 
stains had spread, darkened with outlines of the 
features and of the tight-clasped fingers. There 
was a frightful stench of drying death. 

As Sir Gabriel looked down, something stirred 
behind him, softly at first, then more noisily, and 
something fell to the stone floor with a dull thud 



THE DEAD SMILE 37 

and rolled up to his feet ; he started back and saw 
a withered head lying almost face upward on the 
pavement, grinning at him. He felt the cold 
sweat standing on his face, and his heart beat pain- 
fully. 

For the first time in all his life that evil thing 
which men call fear was getting hold of him, 
checking his heart-strings as a cruel driver checks 
a quivering horse, clawing at his backbone with 
icy hands, lifting his hair with freezing breath, 
climbing up and gathering in his midriff with 
leaden weight. 

Yet presently he bit his lip and bent down, hold- 
ing the candle in one hand, to lift the shroud back 
from the head of the corpse with the other. Slowly 
he lifted it. Then it clove to the half-dried skin 
of the face, and his hand shook as if some one had 
struck him on the elbow, but half in fear and half 
in anger at himself, he pulled it, so that it came 
away with a little ripping sound. He caught his 
breath as he held it, not yet throwing it back, and 
not yet looking. The horror was working in him, 
and he felt that old Vernon Ockram was standing 
up in his iron coffin, headless, yet watching him 
with the stump of his severed neck. 

While he held his breath he felt the dead smile 
twisting his lips. In sudden wrath at his own 
misery, he tossed the death-stained linen backward, 



38 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and looked at last. He ground his teeth lest he 
should shriek aloud. 

There it was, the thing that haunted him, that 
haunted Evelyn Warburton, that was like a blight 
on all that came near him. 

The dead face was blotched with dark stains, 
and the thin, grey hair was matted about the dis- 
coloured forehead. The sunken lids were half 
open, and the candle light gleamed on something 
foul where the toad eyes had lived. 

But yet the dead thing smiled, as it had smiled 
in life; the ghastly lips were parted and drawn 
wide and tight upon the wolfish teeth, cursing still, 
and still defying hell to do its worst — defying, 
cursing, and always and for ever smiling alone in 
the dark. 

Sir Gabriel opened the winding-sheet where the 
hands were, and the blackened, withered fingers 
were closed upon something stained and mottled. 
Shivering from head to foot, but fighting like a 
man in agony for his life, he tried to take the 
package from the dead man's hold. But as he 
pulled at it the claw-like fingers seemed to close 
more tightly, and when he pulled harder the 
shrunken hands and arms rose from the corpse with 
a horrible look of life following his motion — then 
as he wrenched the sealed packet loose at last, the 
hands fell back into their place still folded. 



THE DEAD SMILE 39 

He set down the candle on the edge of the bier 
to break the seals from the stout paper. And, 
kneeling on one knee, to get a better light, he read 
what was within, written long ago in Sir Hugh's 
queer hand. 

He was no longer afraid. 

He read how Sir Hugh had written it all down 
that it might perchance be a witness of evil and of 
his hatred ; how he had loved Evelyn Warburton, 
his wife's sister ; and how his wife had died of a 
broken heart with his curse upon her, and how 
Warburton and he had fought side by side in 
Afghanistan, and Warburton had fallen ; but Ock- 
ram had brought his comrade's wife back a full 
year later, and little Evelyn, her child, had been 
born in Ockram Hall. And next, how he had 
wearied of the mother, and she had died like her 
sister with his curse on her. And then, how 
Evelyn had been brought up as his niece, and how 
he had trusted that his son Gabriel and his daugh- 
ter, innocent and unknowing, might love and 
marry, and the souls of the women he had betrayed 
might suffer another anguish before eternity was 
out. And, last of all, he hoped that some day, 
when nothing could be undone, the two might find 
his writing and live on, not daring to tell the truth 
for their children's sake and the world's word, man 
and wife. 



40 WANDERING GHOSTS 

This he read, kneeling beside the corpse in the 
north vault, by the light of the altar candle ; and 
when he had read it all, he thanked God aloud 
that he had found the secret in time. But when 
he rose to his feet and looked down at the dead 
face it was changed, and the smile was gone from 
it for ever, and the jaw had fallen a little, and the 
tired, dead lips were relaxed. And then there was 
a breath behind him and close to him, not cold hke 
that which had blown the flame of the candle as 
he came, but warm and human. He turned sud- 
denly. 

There she stood, all in white, with her shadowy 
golden hair — for she had risen from her bed and 
had followed him noiselessly, and had found him 
reading, and had herself read over his shoulder. 
He started violently when he saw her, for his 
nerves were unstrung — and then he cried out her 
name in the still place of death : 

" Evelyn ! " 

" My brother ! " she answered softly and ten- 
derly, putting out both hands to meet his. 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 

I HAVE often heard it scream. No, I am not ner- 
vous, I am not imaginative, and I never believed 
in ghosts, unless that thing is one. Whatever it 
is, it hates me almost as much as it hated Luke 
Pratt, and it screams at me. 

If I were you, I would never tell ugly stories 
about ingenious ways of killing people, for you 
never can tell but that some one at the table may 
be tired of his or her nearest and dearest. I have 
always blamed myself for Mrs. Pratt's death, and I 
suppose I was responsible for it in a way, though 
heaven knows I never wished her anything but 
long life and happiness. If I had not told that 
story she might be alive yet. That is why the 
thing screams at me, I fancy. 

She was a good little woman, with a sweet tem- 
per, all things considered, and a nice gentle voice ; 
but I remember hearing her shriek once when she 
thought her little boy was killed by a pistol that 
went off, though every one was sure that it was 
not loaded. It was the same scream ; exactly the 

43 



44 WANDERING GHOSTS 

same, with a sort of rising quaver at the end; do 
you know what I mean ? Unmistakable. 

The truth is, I had not realised that the doctor 
and his wife were not on good terms. They used to 
bicker a bit now and then when I was here, and I 
often noticed that little Mrs. Pratt got very red and 
bit her lip hard to keep her temper, while Luke 
grew pale and said the most offensive things. He 
was that sort when he was in the nursery, I re- 
member, and afterward at school. He was my 
cousin, you know; that is how I came by this 
house; after he died, and his boy Charley was 
killed in South Africa, there were no relatione 
left. Yes, it's a pretty little property, just the 
sort of thing for an old sailor like me who has 
taken to gardening. 

One always remembers one's mistakes much 
more vividly than one's cleverest things, doesn't 
one ? I've often noticed it. I was dining with 
the Pratts one night, when I told them the story 
that afterwards made so much difference. It was 
a wet night in November, and the sea was moan- 
ing. Hush ! — if you don't speak you will hear it 
now. . . . 

Do you hear the tide ? Gloomy sound, isn't it ? 
Sometimes, about this time of year — hallo ! —  
there it is! Don't be frightened, man — it won't 
eat you — it's only a noise, after all ! But I'm 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 45 

glad you've heard it, because there are always peo- 
ple who think it's the wind, or my imagination, or 
something. You won't hear it again to-night, I 
fancy, for it doesn't often come more than once. 
Yes — that's right. Put another stick on the fire, 
and a little more stuff into that weak mixture 
you're so fond of. Do you remember old Blauklot 
the carpenter, on that German ship that picked us 
up when the Clontarf went to the bottom? We 
were hove to in a howling gale one night, as snug 
as you please, with no land within five hundred 
miles, and the ship coming up and falling off as 
regularly as clockwork — " Biddy te boor beebles 
ashore tis night, poys ! '* old Blauklot sang out, as 
he went off to his quarters with the sail-maker. 
I often think of that, now that I'm ashore for good 
and all. 

Yes, it was on a night like this, when I was at 
home for a spell, waiting to take the Olympia out 
on her first trip — it was on the next voyage that 
she broke the record, you remember — but that 
dates it. Ninety-two was the year, early in No- 
vember. 

The weather was dirty, Pratt was out of temper, 
and the dinner was bad, very bad indeed, which 
didn't improve matters, and cold, which made it 
worse. The poor little lady was very unhappy 
about it, and insisted on making a Welsh rarebit 



46 WANDERING GHOSTS 

on the table to counteract the raw turnips and the 
half-boiled mutton. Pratt must have had a hard 
day. Perhaps he had lost a patient. At all 
events, he was in a nasty temper. 

" My wife is trying to poison me, you see ! " he 
said. " She'll succeed some day." I saw that 
she was hurt, and I made believe to laugh, and 
said that Mrs. Pratt was much too clever to get rid 
of her husband in such a simple way ; and then I 
began to tell them about Japanese tricks with spun 
glass and chopped horsehair and the like. 

Pratt was a doctor, and knew a lot more than I 
did about such things, but that only put me on my 
mettle, and I told a story about a woman in 
Ireland who did for three husbands before any one 
suspected foul play. 

Did you never hear that tale ? The fourth hus- 
band managed to keep awake and caught her, 
and she was hanged. How did she do it? She 
drugged them, and poured melted lead into their 
ears through a little horn funnel when they were 
asleep. ... No — that's the wind whistling. It's 
backing up to the southward again. I can tell by 
the sound. Besides, the other thing doesn't often 
come more than once in an evening even at this 
time of year — when it happened. Yes, it was in 
November. Poor Mrs. Pratt died suddenly in her 
bed not long after I dined here. I can fix the date, 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 47 

because I got tlie news in New York by the steamer 
that followed the Olympia when I took her out on 
her first trip. You had the Leofric the same year ? 
Yes, I remember. What a pair of old buffers we 
are coming to be, you and I. Nearly fifty years 
since we were apprentices together on the Clontarf. 
Shall you ever forget old Blauklot? "Biddy te 
boor beebles ashore, poys ! " Ha, ha ! Take a 
little more, with all that water. It's the old 
Hulstkamp I found in the cellar when this house 
came to me, the same I brought Luke from Am- 
sterdam five-and-twenty years ago. He had never 
touched a drop of it. Perhaps he's sorry now, poor 
fellow. 

Where did I leave off ? I told you that Mrs. 
Pratt died suddenly — yes. Luke must have been 
lonely here after she was dead, I should think ; I 
came to see him now and then, and he looked worn 
and nervous, and told me that his practice was 
growing too heavy for him, though he wouldn't 
take an assistant on any account. Years went on, 
and his son was killed in South Africa, and after 
that he began to be queer. There was something 
about him not like other people. I believe he kept 
his senses in his profession to the end ; there was 
no complaint of his having made bad mistakes in 
cases, or anything of that sort, but he had a look 
about him 



48 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Luke was a red-headed man with a pale face 
when he was young, and he was never stout ; in 
middle age he turned a sandy grey, and after his 
son died he grew thinner and thinner, till his head 
looked like a skull with parchment stretched over 
it very tight, and his eyes had a sort of glare in 
them that was very disao-reeable to look at. 

He had an old dog that poor Mrs. Pratt had been 
fond of, and that used to follow her everywhere. 
He was a bull-dog, and the sweetest tempered beast 
you ever saw, though he had a way of hitching his up- 
per lip behind one of his fangs that frightened stran- 
gers a good deal. Sometimes, of an evening, Pratt 
and Bumble — that was the dog's name — used to sit 
and look at each other a long time, thinking about old 
times, I suppose, when Luke's wife used to sit in that 
chair you've got. That was always her place, and 
this was the doctor's, where I'm sitting. Bumble 
used to climb up by the footstool — he was old and 
fat by that time, and could not jump much, and 
his teeth were getting shaky. He would look 
steadily at Luke, and Luke looked steadily at the 
dog, his face growing more and more like a skull with 
two little coals for eyes ; and after about five minutes 
or so, though it may have been less, old Bumble 
would suddenly begin to shake all over, and all on 
a sudden he would set up an awful howl, as if he 
had been shot, and tumble out of the easy-chair 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 49 

and trot away, and hide himself under the side- 
board, and lie there making odd noises. 

Considering Pratt's looks in those last months, 
the thing is not surprising, you know. I'm not 
nervous or imaginative, but I can quite believe he 
might have sent a sensitive woman into hysterics 
— his head looked so much like a skull in parch- 
ment. 

At last I came down one day before Christmas, 
when my ship was in dock and I had three weeks 
off. Bumble was not about, and I said casually 
that I supposed the old dog was dead. 

" Yes," Pratt answered, and I thought there 
was something odd in his tone even before he went 
on after a little pause. " I killed him," he said 
presently. " I could not stand it any longer." 

I asked what it was that Luke could not stand, 
though I guessed well enough. 

^' He had a way of sitting in her chair and glar- 
ing at me, and then howling." Luke shivered a 
little. " He didn't suffer at all, poor old Bumble," 
he went on in a hurry, as if he thought I might 
imagine he had been cruel. " I put dionine into his 
drink to make him sleep soundly, and then I 
chloroformed him gradually, so that he could not 
have felt suffocated even if he was dreaming. It's 
been quieter since then." 

I wondered what he meant, for the words slipped 



50 WANDERING GHOSTS 

out as if he could not help saying them. I've 
understood since. He meant that he did not hear 
that noise so often after the dog was out of the 
way. Perhaps he thought at first that it was old 
Bumble in the yard howling at the moon, though 
it's not that kind of noise, is it ? Besides, I 
know what it is, if Luke didn't. It's only a noise, 
after all, and a noise never hurt anybody yet. 
But he was much more imaginative than I am. 
No doubt there really is something about this place 
that I don't understand; but w^hen I don't under- 
stand a thing, I call it a phenomenon, and I don't 
take it for granted that it's going to kill me, as 
he did. I don't understand everything, by long 
odds, nor do you, nor does any man who has 
been to sea. We used to talk of tidal waves, 
for instance, and we could not account for them; 
now we account for them by calling them subma- 
rine earthquakes, and we branch off into fifty 
theories, any one of which might make earthquakes 
quite comprehensible if we only knew what they 
are. I fell in with one of them once, and the ink- 
stand flew straight up from the table against the 
ceiling of my cabin. The same thing happened to 
Captain Lecky — I dare say you've read about it 
in his " Wrinkles." Very good. If that sort of 
thing took place ashore, in this room for instance, 
a nervous person would talk about spirits and levi- 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 51 

tation and fifty things that mean nothing, instead 
of just quietly setting it down as a " phenomenon " 
that has not been explained yet. My view of that 
voice, you see. 

Besides, what is there to prove that Luke killed 
his wife ? I would not even suggest such a thing 
to any one but you. After all, there was nothing 
but the coincidence that poor little Mrs. Pratt died 
suddenly in her bed a few days after I told that 
story at dinner. She was not the only woman 
who ever died like that. Luke got the doctor over 
from the next parish, and they agreed that she had 
died of something the matter with her heart. Why 
not ? It's common enough. 

Of course, there was the ladle. I never told 
anybody about that, and it made me start when 
I found it in the cupboard in the bedroom. It 
was new, too — a little tinned iron ladle that had 
not been in the fire more than once or twice, and 
there was some lead in it that had been melted, 
and stuck to the bottom of the bowl, all grey, with 
hardened dross on it. But that proves nothing. 
A country doctor is generally a handy man, who 
does everything for himself, and Luke may have 
had a dozen reasons for melting a little lead in a 
ladle. He was fond of sea-fishing, for instance, 
and he may have cast a sinker for a night-line ; 
perhaps it was a weight for the hall clock, or some- 



52 WANDERING GHOSTS 

thing like that. All the same, when I found it I 
had a rather queer sensation, because it looked so 
much like the thing I had described when I told 
them the story. Do you understand ? It affected 
me unpleasantly, and I threw it away ; it's at the 
bottom of the sea a mile from the Spit, and it will 
be jolly well rusted beyond recognising if it's ever 
washed up by the tide. 

You see, Luke must have bought it in the vil- 
lage, years ago, for the man sells just such ladles 
still. I suppose they are used in cooking. In any 
case, there was no reason why an inquisitive house- 
maid should find such a thing lying about, with 
lead in it, and wonder what it was, and perhaps 
talk to the maid who heard me tell the story at 
dinner — for that girl married the plumber's son 
in the village, and may remember the whole thing. 

You understand me, don't you ? Now that Luke 
Pratt is dead and gone, and lies buried beside his 
wife, with an honest man's tombstone at his head, 
I should not care to stir up anything that could 
hurt his memory. They are both dead, and their 
son, too. There was trouble enough about Luke's 
death, as it was. 

How? He was found dead on the beach one 
morning, and there was a coroner's inquest. There 
were marks on his throat, but he had not been 
robbed. The verdict was that he had come to his 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 53 

end " by the hands or teeth of some person or ani- 
mal unknown," for half the jury thought it might 
have been a big dog that had thrown him down 
and gripped his windpipe, though the skin of his 
throat was not broken. No one knew at what 
time he had gone out, nor where he had been. 
He was found lying on his back above high-water 
mark, and an old cardboard bandbox that had be- 
longed to his wife lay under his hand, open. The 
lid had fallen off. He seemed to have been carry- 
ing home a skull in the box — doctors are fond of 
collecting such things. It had rolled out and lay 
near his head, and it was a remarkably fine skull, 
rather small, beautifully shaped and very white, 
with perfect teeth. That is to say, the upper jaw 
was perfect, but there was no lower one at all, 
when I first saw it. 

Yes, I found it here when I came. You see, it 
was very white and polished, like a thing meant to 
be kept under a glass case, and the people did not 
know where it came from, nor what to do with it ; 
so they put it back into the bandbox and set it on 
the shelf of the cupboard in the best bedroom, and 
of course they showed it to me when I took posses- 
sion. I was taken down to the beach, too, to be 
shown the place where Luke was found, and the 
old fishermar explained just how he was lying, and 
the skull beside him. The only point he could not 



54 WANDERING GHOSTS 

explain was why the skull had rolled up the slop- 
ing sand toward Luke's head instead of rolling 
downhill to his feet. It did not seem odd to me 
at the time, but I have often thought of it since, 
for the place is rather steep. I'll take you there 
to-morrow if you like — I made a sort of cairn of 
stones there afterward. 

When he fell down, or was thrown down — 
whichever happened — the bandbox struck the 
sand, and the lid came off, and the thing came 
out and ought to have rolled down. But it didn't. 
It was close to his head, almost touching it, and 
turned with the face toward it. I say it didn't 
strike me as odd when the man told me ; but I 
could not help thinking about it afterward, again 
and again, till I saw a picture of it all when I 
closed my eyes ; and then I began to ask myself 
why the plaguey thing had rolled up instead of 
down, and why it had stopped near Luke's head 
instead of anywhere else, a yard away, for in- 
stance. 

You naturally want to know what conclusion 
I reached, don't you ? None that at all explained 
the rolling, at all events. But I got something 
else into my head, after a time, that made me feel 
downright uncomfortable. 

Oh, I don't mean as to anything supernatural ! 
There may be ghosts, or there may not be. If 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 55 

there are, I'm not inclined to believe that they can 
hurt living people except by frightening them, and, 
for my part, I would rather face any shape of 
ghost than a fog in the Channel when it's crowded. 
No. What bothered me was just a foolish idea, 
that's all, and I cannot tell how it began, nor 
what made it grow till it turned into a certainty. 

I was thinking about Luke and his poor wife 
one evening over my pipe and a dull book, when 
it occurred to me that the skull might possibly be 
hers, and I have never got rid of the thought since. 
You'll tell me there's no sense in it, no doubt ; that 
Mrs. Pratt was buried like a Christian and is lying 
in the churchyard where they put her, and that 
it's perfectly monstrous to suppose her husband 
kept her skull in her old bandbox in his bedroom. 
All the same, in the face of reason, and common 
sense, and probability, I'm convinced that he did. 
Doctors do all sorts of queer things that would 
make men like you and me feel creepy, and those 
are just the things that don't seem probable, nor 
logical, nor sensible to us. 

Then, don't you see ? — if it really was her 
skull, poor woman, the only way of accounting 
for his having it is that he really killed her, and 
did it in that way, as the woman killed her 
husbands in the story, and that he was afraid there 
might be an examination some day which would 



56 WANDERING GHOSTS 

betray him. You see, I told that too, and I beheve 
it had really happened some fifty or sixty years 
ago. They dug up the three skulls, you know, 
and there was a small lump of lead rattling about 
in each one. That was what hanged the woman. 
Luke remembered that, I'm sure. I don't want to 
know what he did when he thought of it; my 
taste never ran in the direction of horrors, and I 
don't fancy you care [for them either, do you ? 
No. If you did, you might supply what is wanting 
to the story. 

It must have been rather grim, eh? I wish I 
did not see the whole thing so distinctly, just as 
everything must have happened. He took it the 
night before she was buried, I'm sure, after the 
cofiin had been shut, and when the servant girl 
was asleep. I would bet anything, that when he'd 
got it, he put something under the sheet in its 
place, to fill up and look like it. What do you 
suppose he put there, under the sheet ? 

I don't wonder you take me up on what I'm 
saying ! First I tell you that I don't want to 
know what happened, and that I hate to think 
about horrors, and then I describe the whole thing 
to you as if I had seen it. I'm quite sure that it 
was her work-bag that he put there. I remember 
the bag very well, for she always used it of an 
evening ; it was made of brown plush, and when 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 57 

it was stuffed full it was about the size of — you 
understand. Yes, there I am, at it again! You 
may laugh at me, but you don't live here alone, 
where it was done, and you didn't tell Luke the 
story about the melted lead. I'm not nervous, I 
tell you, but sometimes I begin to feel that I 
understand why some people are. I dwell on all 
this when I'm alone, and I dream of it, and when 
that thing screams — well, frankly, I don't like the 
noise any more than you do, though I should 
be used to it by this time. 

I ought not to be nervous. I've sailed in a 
haunted ship. There was a Man in the Top, 
and two-thirds of the crew died of the West Coast 
fever inside of ten days after we anchored ; but I 
was all right, then and afterward. I have seen 
some ugly sights, too, just as you have, and all the 
rest of us. But nothing ever stuck in my head in 
the way this does. 

You see, I've tried to get rid of the thing, but it 
doesn't hke that. It wants to be there in its 
place, in Mrs. Pratt's bandbox in the cupboard in 
the best bedroom. It's not happy anywhere else. 
How do I know that ? Because I've tried it. You 
don't suppose that I've not tried, do you ? As long 
as it's there it only screams now and then, gen- 
erally at this time of year, but if I put it out of the 
house it goes on all night, and no servant will stay 



58 WANDERING GHOSTS 

here twenty-four hours. As it is, I've often been 
left alone and have been obliged to shift for 
myself for a fortnight at a time. No one from 
the village would ever pass a night under the 
roof now, and as for selling the place, or even 
letting it, that's out of the question. The old 
women say that if I stay here I shall come to a 
bad end myself before long. 

I'm not afraid of that. You smile at the mere 
idea that any one could take such nonsense 
seriously. Quite right. It's utterly blatant non- 
sense, I agree with you. Didn't I tell you that 
it's only a noise after all when you started and 
looked round as if you expected to see a ghost 
standing behind your chair? 

I may be all wrong about the skull, and I 
like to think that I am — when I can. It may 
be just a fine specimen which Luke got somewhere 
long ago, and what rattles about inside when you 
shake it may be nothing but a pebble, or a bit of 
hard clay, or anything. Skulls that have lain 
long in the ground generally have something 
inside them that rattles, don't they? No, I've 
never tried to get it out, whatever it is ; I'm 
afraid it might be lead, don't you see ? And if 
it is, I don't want to know the fact, for I'd much 
rather not be sure. If it really is lead, I killed 
her quite as much as if I had done the deed 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 59 

myself. Anybody must see that, I should think. 
As long as I don't know for certain, I have the 
consolation of saying that it's all utterly ridiculous 
nonsense, that Mrs. Pratt died a natural death and 
that the beautiful skull belonged to Luke when he 
was a student in London. But if I were quite 
sure, I believe I should have to leave the house ; 
indeed I do, most certainly. As it is, I had to 
give up trying to sleep in the best bedroom where 
the cupboard is. 

You ask me why I don't throw it into the pond 
— yes, but please don't call it a " confounded bug- 
bear" — it doesn't like being called names. 

There ! Lord, what a shriek ! I told you so ! 
You're quite pale, man. Fill up your pipe and 
draw your chair nearer to the fire, and take some 
more drink. Old Hollands never hurt anybody 
yet. I've seen a Dutchman in Java drink half a 
jug of Hulstkamp in a morning without turning 
a hair. I don't take much rum myself, because 
it doesn't agree with my rheumatism, but you are 
not rheumatic and it won't damage you. Besides, 
it's a very damp night outside. The wind is 
howling again, and it will soon be in the south- 
west ; do you hear how the windows rattle ? The 
tide must have turned too, by the moaning. 

We should not have heard the thing again if you 
had not said that. I'm pretty sure we should not. 



60 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Oh yes, if you choose to describe it as a coinci- 
dence, you are quite welcome, but I would rather 
that you should not call the thing names again, 
if you don't mind. It may be that the poor little 
woman hears, and perhaps it hurts her, don't you 
know ? Ghost ? No ! You don't call anything 
a ghost that you can take in your hands and look 
at in broad daylight, and that rattles when you 
shake it. Do you, now ? But it's something that 
hears and understands; there's no doubt about 
that. 

I tried sleeping in the best bedroom when I 
first came to the house, just because it was the best 
and the most comfortable, but I had to give it 
up. It was their room, and there's the big bed 
she died in, and the cupboard is in the thickness 
of the wall, near the head, on the left. That's 
where it likes to be kept, in its bandbox. I only 
used the room for a fortnight after I came, and 
then I turned out and took the little room down- 
stairs, next to the surgery, where Luke used to 
sleep when he expected to be called to a patient 
during the night. 

I was always a good sleeper ashore ; eight hours 
is my dose, eleven to seven when I'm alone, twelve 
to eight when I have a friend with me. But I 
could not sleep after three o'clock in the morning 
in that room — a quarter past, to be accurate — 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 61 

as a matter of fact,, I timed it with my old pocket 
chronometer, which still keeps good time, and it 
was always at exactly seventeen minutes past 
three. I wonder whether that was the hour when 
she died ? 

It was not what you have heard. If it had 
been that I could not have stood it two nights. 
It was just a start and a moan and hard breathing 
for a few seconds in the cupboard, and it could 
never have waked me under ordinary circum- 
stances, I'm sure. I suppose you are like me in 
that, and we are just like other people who have 
been to sea. No natural sounds disturb us at all, 
not all the racket of a square-rigger hove to in a 
heavy gale, or rolling on her beam ends before the 
wind. But if a lead pencil gets adrift and rattles 
in the drawer of your cabin table you are awake 
in a moment. Just so — you always understand. 
Very well, the noise in the cupboard was no louder 
than that, but it waked me instantly. 

I said it was like a "start." I know what I 
mean, but it's hard to explain without seeming 
to talk nonsense. Of course you cannot exactly 
" hear " a person " start " ; at the most, you might 
hear the quick drawing of the breath between the 
parted lips and closed teeth, and the almost im- 
perceptible sound of clothing that moved suddenly 
though very slightly. It was like that. 



62 WANDERING GHOSTS 

You know how one feels what a sailing vessel 
is going to do, two or three seconds before she does 
it, when one has the wheel. Riders say the same 
of a horse, but that's less strange, because the horse 
is a live animal with feelings of its own, and only 
poets and landsmen talk about a ship being alive, 
and all that. But I have always felt somehow that 
besides being a steaming machine or a sailing 
machine for carrying weights, a vessel at sea is a 
sensitive instrument, and a means of communica- 
tion between nature and man, and most particu- 
larly the man at the wheel, if she is steered by 
hand. She takes her impressions directly from 
wind and sea, tide and stream, and transmits them 
to the man's hand, just as the wireless telegraph 
picks up the interrupted currents aloft and turns 
them out below in the form of a message. 

You see what I am driving at ; I felt that 
something started in the cupboard, and I felt it 
so vividly that I heard it, though there may have 
been nothing to hear, and the sound inside my 
head waked me suddenly. But I really heard the 
other noise. It was as if it were muffled inside a 
box, as far away as if it came through a long-dis- 
tance telephone; and yet I knew that it was inside 
the cupboard near the head of my bed. My hair 
did not bristle and my blood did not run cold that 
time. I simply resented being waked up by some- 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 63 

thing that had no business to make a noise, any 
more than a pencil should rattle in the drawer of 
my cabin table on board ship. For I did not 
understand ; I just supposed that the cupboard had 
some communication with the outside air, and that 
the wind had got in and was moaning through 
it with a sort of very faint screech. I struck 
a light and looked at my watch, and it was seven- 
teen minutes past three. Then I turned over and 
went to sleep on my right ear. That's my good 
one ; I'm pretty deaf with the other, for I struck 
the water with it when I was a lad in diving from 
the foretopsail yard. Silly thing to do, it was, 
but the result is very convenient when I want to 
go to sleep when there's a noise. 

That was the first night, and the same thing 
happened again and several times afterward, but 
not regularly, though it was always at the 
same time, to a second ; perhaps I was sometimes 
sleeping on my good ear, and sometimes not. I 
overhauled the cupboard and there was no way by 
which the wind could get in, or anything else, for 
the door makes a good fit, having been meant to 
keep out moths, I suppose; Mrs. Pratt must have 
kept her winter things in it, for it still smells of 
camphor and turpentine. 

After about a fortnight I had had enough of the 
noises. So far I had said to myself that it would 



64 WANDERING GHOSTS 

be silly to yield to it and take the skull out of the 
room. Things always look differently by daylight, 
don't they ? But the voice grew louder — I sup- 
pose one may call it a voice — and it got inside 
my deaf ear, too, one night. I realised that when 
I was wide awake, for my good ear was jammed 
down on the pillow, and I ought not to have heard 
a fog-horn in that position. But I heard that, and 
it made me lose my temper, unless it scared me, 
for sometimes the two are not far apart. I struck 
a light and got up, and I opened the cupboard, 
grabbed the bandbcx and threw it out of the win- 
dow, as far as I could. 

Then my hair stood on end. The thing screamed 
in the air, like a shell from a twelve-inch gun. It 
fell on the other side of the road. The night was 
very dark, and I could not see it fall, but I know 
it fell beyond the road. The window is just over 
the front door, it's fifteen yards to the fence, more 
or less, and the road is ten yards wide. There's a 
quickset hedge beyond, along the glebe that belongs 
to the vicarage. 

I did not sleep much more that night. It was 
not more than half an hour after I had thrown the 
bandbox out when I heard a shriek outside — like 
what we've had to-night, but worse, more despair- 
ing, I should call it; and it may have been my 
imagination, but I could have sworn that the 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 65 

screams came nearer and nearer each time. I lit 
a pipe, and walked up and down for a bit, and 
then took a book and sat up reading, but I'll be 
hanged if I can remember what I read nor even 
what the book was, for every now and then a 
shriek came up that would have made a dead man 
turn in his coffin. 

A little before dawn some one knocked at the 
front door. There was no mistaking that for any- 
thing else, and I opened my window and looked 
down, for I guessed that some one wanted the 
doctor, supposing that the new man had taken 
Luke's house. It was rather a relief to hear a 
human knock after that awful noise. 

You cannot see the door from above, owing to 
the little porch. The knocking came again, and I 
called out, asking who was there, but nobody 
answered, though the knock was repeated. I sang 
out again, and said that the doctor did not live 
here any longer. There was no answer, but it 
occurred to me that it might be some old country- 
man who was stone deaf. So I took my candle 
and went down to open the door. Upon my word, 
I was not thinking of the thing yet, and I had 
almost forgotten the other noises. I went down 
convinced that I should find somebody outside, on 
the doorstep, with a message. I set the candle on 
the hall table, so that the wind should not blow it 



66 WANDERING GHOSTS 

out when I opened. While I was drawing the old- 
fashioned bolt I heard the knocking again. It 
was not loud, and it had a queer, hollow sound, 
now that I was close to it, I remember, but I cer- 
tainly thought it was made by some person who 
wanted to get in. 

It wasn't. There was nobody there, but as I 
opened the door inward, standing a little on one 
side, so as to see out at once, something rolled 
across the threshold and stopped against my foot. 

I drew back as I felt it, for I knew what it was 
before I looked down. I cannot tell you how I 
knew, and it seemed unreasonable, for I am still 
quite sure that I had thrown it across the road. 
It's a French window, that opens wide, and I got a 
good swing when I flung it out. Besides, when I 
went out early in the morning, I found the band- 
box beyond the thickset hedge. 

You may think it opened when I threw it, 
and that the skull dropped out ; but that's im- 
possible, for nobody could throw an empty card- 
board box so far. It's out of the question ; you 
might as well try to fling a ball of paper twenty- 
five yards, or a blown bird's egg. 

To go back, I shut and bolted the hall door, 
picked the thing up carefully, and put it on the 
table beside the candle. I did that mechanically, 
as one instinctively does the right thing in danger 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 67 

without tliinking at all — unless one does the 
opposite. It may seem odd, but I believe my 
first thought had been that somebody might come 
and find me there on the threshold while it was 
resting against my foot, lying a little on its side, 
and turning one hollow eye up at my face, as if 
it meant to accuse me. And the light and shadow 
from the candle played in the hollows of the 
eyes as it stood on the table, so that they seemed 
to open and shut at me. Then the candle went 
out quite unexpectedly, though the door was fast- 
ened and there was not the least draught ; and 
I used up at least half a dozen matches before it 
would burn again. 

I sat down rather suddenly, without quite 
knowing why. Probably I had been badly fright- 
ened, and perhaps you will admit there was no 
great shame in being scared. The thing had come 
home, and it wanted to go upstairs, back to its 
cupboard. I sat still and stared at it for a bit, 
till I began to feel very cold ; then I took it and 
carried it up and set it in its place, and I remem- 
ber that I spoke to it, and promised that it should 
have its bandbox again in the morning. 

You want to know whether I stayed in the 
room till daybreak ? Yes, but I kept a light 
burning, and sat up smoking and reading, most 
likely out of fright ; plain, undeniable fear, and 



68 WANDERING GHOSTS 

yoTi need not call it cowardice either, for that's 
not the same thing. I could not have stayed 
alone with that thing in the cupboard; I should 
have been scared to death, though I'm not more 
timid than other people. Confound it all, man, 
it had crossed the road alone, and had got up the 
doorstep and had knocked to be let in. 

When the dawn came, I put on my boots and 
went out to find the bandbox. I had to go a 
good way round, by the gate near the highroad, 
and I found the box open and hanging on the 
other side of the hedge. It had caught on the 
twigs by the string, and the lid had fallen off 
and was lying on the ground below it. That 
shows that it did not open till it was well over ; 
and if it had not opened as soon as it left my 
hand, what was inside it must have gone beyond 
the road too. 

That's all. I took the box upstairs to the 
cupboard, and put the skull back and locked 
it up. When the girl brought me my break- 
fast she said she was sorry, but that she must 
go, and she did not care if she lost her month's 
wages. I looked at her, and her face was a sort 
of greenish, yellowish white. I pretended to be 
surprised, and asked what was the matter; but 
that was of no use, for she just turned on me 
and wanted to know whether I meant to stay in 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 69 

a haunted house, and how long I expected to live 
if I did, for though she noticed I was sometimes 
a little hard of hearing, she did not believe that 
even I could sleep through those screams again — 
and if I could, why had I been moving about 
the house and opening and shutting the front 
door, between three and four in the morning? 
There was no answering that, since she had heard 
me, so off she went, and I was left to myself. 
I went down to the village during the morning 
and found a woman who was willing to come 
and do the little work there is and cook my 
dinner, on condition that she might go home every 
night. As for me, I moved downstairs that day, 
and I have never tried to sleep in the best bed- 
room since. After a little while I got a brace of 
middle-aged Scotch servants from London, and 
things were quiet enough for a long time. I 
began by telling them that the house was in a 
very exposed position, and that the wind whistled 
round it a good deal in the autumn and winter, 
which had given it a bad name in the village, 
the Cornish people being inclined to superstition 
and telling ghost stories. The two hard-faced, 
sandy-haired sisters almost smiled, and they an- 
swered with great contempt that they had no 
great opinion of any Southern bogey whatever, 
having been in service in two English haunted 



70 WANDERING GHOSTS 

houses, where they had never seen so much as 
the Boy in Gray, whom they reckoned no very 
particular rarity in Forfarshire. 

They stayed with me several months, and while 
they were in the house we had peace and quiet. 
One of them is here again now, but she went 
away with her sister within the year. This one 
— she was the cook — married the sexton, who 
works in my garden. That's the way of it. It's 
a small village and he has not much to do, and 
he knows enough about flowers to help me nicely, 
besides doing most of the hard work ; for though 
I'm fond of exercise, I'm getting a little stiff in 
the hinges. He's a sober, silent sort of fellow, 
who minds his own business, and he was a wid- 
ower when I came here — Trehearn is his name, 
James Trehearn. The Scotch sisters would not 
admit that there was anything wrong about the 
house, but when November- came they gave me 
warning that they were going, on the ground that 
the chapel was such a long walk from here, being 
in the next parish, and that they could not pos- 
sibly go to our church. But the younger one 
came back in the spring, and as soon as the 
banns could be published she was married to 
James Trehearn by the vicar, and she seems to 
have had no scruples about hearing him preach 
since then. I'm quite satisfied, if she is ! The 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 71 

couple live in a small cottage that looks over the 
churchyard. 

I suppose you are wondering what all this 
has to do with what I was talking about. I'm 
alone so much that when an old friend comes 
to see me, I sometimes go on talking just for 
the sake of hearing my own voice. But in this 
case there is really a connection of ideas. It 
was James Trehearn who buried poor Mrs. Pratt, 
and her husband after her in the same grave, 
and it's not far from the back of his cottage. 
That's the connection in my mind, you see. It's 
plain enough. He knows something; I'm quite 
sure that he does, by his manner, though he's 
such a reticent beggar. 

Yes, I'm alone in the house at night now, 
for Mrs. Trehearn does everything herself, and 
when I have a friend the sexton's niece comes 
in to wait on the table. He takes his wife 
home every evening in winter, but in summer, 
when there's light, she goes by herself. She's 
not a nervous woman, but she's less sure than 
she used to be that there are no bogies in England 
worth a Scotchwoman's notice. Isn't it amusing, 
the idea that Scotland has a monopoly of the 
supernatural ? Odd sort of national pride, I call 
that, don't you ? 

That's a good fire, isn't it? When driftwood 



72 WANDERING GHOSTS 

gets started at last there's nothing like it, I 
think. Yes, we get lots of it, for I'm sorry to 
say there are still a great many wrecks about 
here. It's a lonely coast, and you may have all 
the wood you want for the trouble of bringing 
it in. Trehearn and I borrow a cart now and 
then, and load it between here and the Spit. 
I hate a coal fire when I can get wood of any 
sort. A log is company, even if it's only a piece 
of a deck-beam or timber sawn off, and the salt 
in it makes pretty sparks. See how they fly, 
like Japanese hand-fireworks ! Upon my word, 
with an old friend and a good fire and a pipe, 
one forgets all about that thing upstairs, especially 
now that the wind has moderated. It's only a lull, 
though, and it will blow a gale before morning. 

You think you would like to see the skull? 
I've no objection. There's no reason why you 
shouldn't have a look at it, and you never saw 
a more perfect one in your life, except that there 
are two front teeth missing in the lower jaw. 

Oh yes — I had not told you about the jaw 
yet. Trehearn found it in the garden last spring 
when he was digging a pit for a new asparagus 
bed. You know we make asparagus beds six 
or eight feet deep here. Yes, yes — I had for- 
gotten to tell you that. He was digging straight 
down, just as he digs a grave; if you want a 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 73 

good asparagus bed made, T advise you to get 
a sexton to make it for you. Those fellows have 
a wonderful knack at that sort of digging. 

Trehearn had got down about three feet when 
he cut into a mass of white lime in the side of 
the trench. He had noticed that the earth was 
a little looser there, though he says it had not 
been disturbed for a number of years. I suppose 
he thought that even old lime might not be good 
for asparagus, so he broke it out and threw it 
up. It was pretty hard, he says, in biggish 
lumps, and out of sheer force of habit he cracked 
the lumps with his spade as they lay outside the 
pit beside him ; the jawbone of a skull dropped 
out of one of the pieces. He thinks he must 
have knocked out the two front teeth in break- 
ing up the lime, but he did not see them any- 
where. He's a very experienced man in such 
things, as you may imagine, and he said at once 
that the jaw had probably belonged to a young 
woman, and that the teeth had been complete 
when she died. He brought it to me, and asked 
me if I wanted to keep it ; if I did not, he said 
he would drop it into the next grave he made 
in the churchyard, as he supposed it was a 
Christian jaw, and ought to have decent burial, 
wherever the rest of the body might be. I told 
him that doctors often put bones into quicklime 



74 WANDERING GHOSTS 

to whiten them nicely, and that I supposed Dr. 
Pratt had once had a little lime pit in the garden 
for that purpose, and had forgotten the jaw. Tre- 
hearn looked at me quietly. 

'' Maybe it fitted that skull that used to be 
in the cupboard upstairs, sir," he said. " Maybe 
Dr. Pratt had put the skull into the lime to 
clean it, or something, and when he took it out 
he left the lower jaw behind. There's some 
human hair sticking in the lime, sir." 

I saw there was, and that was what Trehearn 
said. If he did not suspect something, why in 
the world should he have suggested that the 
jaw might fit the skull ? Besides, it did. That's 
proof that he knows more than he cares to tell. 
Do you suppose he looked before she was buried ? 
Or perhaps — when he buried Luke in the same 
grave 

Well, well, it's of no use to go over that, is it ? 
I said I would keep the jaw with the skull, and 
I took it upstairs and fitted it into its place. 
There's not the slightest doubt about the two be- 
longing together, and together they are. 

Trehearn knows several things. We were talk- 
ing about plastering the kitchen a while ago, and 
he happened to remember that it had not been 
done since the very week when Mrs. Pratt died. 
He did not say that the mason must have left 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 75 

some lime on the place, but he thought it, and 
that it was the very same lime he had found in 
the asparagus pit. He knows a lot. Trehearn is 
one of your silent beggars who can put two and 
two together. That grave is very near the back 
of his cottage, too, and he's one of the quickest 
men with a spade I ever saw. If he wanted to 
know the truth, he could, and no one eke would 
ever be the wiser unless he chose to tell. In a 
quiet village like ours, people don't go and spend 
the night in the churchyard to see whether the 
sexton potters about by himself between ten 
o'clock and daylight. 

What is awful to think of, is Luke's delibera- 
tion, if he did it ; his cool certainty that no one 
would find him out ; above all, his nerve, for that 
must have been extraordinary. I sometimes think 
it's bad enough to live in the place where it was 
done, if it really was done. I always put in the 
condition, you see, for the sake of his memory, 
and a little bit for my own sake, too. 

I'll go upstairs and fetch the box in a minute. 
Let me light my pipe ; there's no hurry ! We had 
supper early, and it's only half-past nine o'clock. 
I never let a friend go to bed before twelve, or 
with less than three glasses — you may have as 
many more as you like, but you shan't have less, 
for the sake of old times. 



76 WANDERING GHOSTS 

It's breezing up again, do you hear ? That was 
only a lull just now, and we are going to have a 
bad night. 

A thing happened that made me start a little 
when I found that the jaw fitted exactly. I'm not 
ve.:y easily startled in that way myself, but I 
have seen people make a quick movement, draw- 
ing their breath sharply, when they had thought 
they were alone and suddenly turned and saw 
some one very near them. Nobody can call that 
fear. You wouldn't, would you? No. Well, 
just when I had set the jaw in its place under 
the skull, the teeth closed sharply on my finger. 
It felt exactly as if it were biting me hard, and I 
confess that I jumped before I realised that I had 
been pressing the jaw and the skull together with 
my other hand. I assure you I was not at all 
nervous. It was broad daylight, too, and a fine 
day, and the sun was streaming into the best bed- 
room. It would have been absurd to be nervous, 
and it was only a quick mistaken impression, but 
it really made me feel queer. Somehow it made 
me think of the funny veidict of the coroner's 
jury on Luke's death, " by the hand or teeth of 
some person or animal unknown." Ever since 
that I've wished I had seen those marks on 
his throat, though the lower jaw was missing 
then. 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 77 

I have often seen a man do insane things with 
his hands that he does not realise at all. I once 
saw a man hanging on by an old awning stop with 
one hand, leaning backward, outboard, with all his 
weight on it, and he was just cutting the stop with 
the knife in his other hand when I got my arms 
round him. We were in mid-ocean, going twenty 
knots. He had not the sma''lest idea what he was 
doing; neither had I when I managed to pinch 
my finger between the teeth of that thing. I can 
feel it now. It was exactly as if it were alive and 
were trying to bite me. It would if it could, for 
I know it hates me, poor thing ! Do you suppose 
that what rattles about inside is really a bit of 
lead ? Well, I'll get the box down presently, and 
if whatever it is happens to drop out into your 
hands that's your affair. If it's only a clod of 
earth or a pebble, the whole matter would be off my 
mind, and I don't believe I should ever think of the 
skull again ; but somehow I cannot bring myself to 
shake out the bit of hard stuff myself. The mere 
idea that it may be lead makes me confoundedly un- 
comfortable, yet I've got the conviction that I shall 
know before long. I shall certainly know. I'm sure 
Trehearn knows, but he's such a silent beggar. 

I'll go upstairs now and get it. What? You 
had better go with me? Ha, ha! do you 'hink 
I'm afraid of a bandbox and a noise ? Nonsense ! 



78 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Bother the candle, it won't light! As if the 
ridiculous thing understood what it's wanted for ! 
Look at that — the third match. They light fast 
enough for my pipe. There, do you see ? It's a 
fresh box, just out of the tin safe where I keep 
the supply on account of the dampness. Oh, you 
think the wick of the candle may be damp, do 
you ? All right, I'll }^ght the beastly thing in the 
fire. That won t go out, at all events. Yes, it 
sputters a bit, but it will keep lighted now. It 
burns just like any other candle, doesn't it ? The 
fact is, candles are not very good about here. I 
don't know where they come from, but they have 
a way of burning low occasionally, with a greenish 
flame that spits tiny sparks, and I'm often an- 
noyed by their going out of themselves. It cannot 
be helped, for it will be long before we have elec- 
tricity in our village. It really is rather a poor 
light, isn't it ? 

You think I had better leave you the candle 
and take the lamp, do you? I don't like to 
carry lamps about, that's the truth. I never 
dropped one in my life, but I have always 
thought I might, and it's so confoundedly 
dangerous if you do. Besides, I am pretty 
well used to these rotten candles by this time. 

Y-'u may as well finish that glass while I'm 
getting it, for I don't mean to let you off with 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 79 

less than three before you go to bed. You 
won't have to go upstairs, either, for I've put 
you in the old study next to the surgery — 
that's where I live myself. The fact is, I never 
ask a friend to sleep upstairs now. The last 
man who did was Crackenthorpe, and he said 
he was kept awake all night. You remember 
old Crack, don't you? He stuck to the Service, 
and they've just made him an admiral. Yes, 
I'm off now — unless the candle goes out. I 
couldn't help asking if you remembered Crack- 
enthorpe. If any one had told us that the 
skinny little idiot he used to be was to turn 
out the most successful of the lot of us, we 
should have laughed at the idea, shouldn't we? 
You and I did not do badly, it's true — but I'm 
really going now. I don't mean to let you think 
that I've been putting it off by talking ! As if 
there were anything to be afraid of ! If I were 
scared, I should tell you so quite frankly, and 
get you to go upstairs with me. 



Here's the box. I brought it down very care- 
fully, so as not to disturb it, poor thing. You 
see, if it were shaken, the jaw might get separated 
from it again, and I'm sure it wouldn't like that. 
Yes, the candle went out as I was coming down- 



80 WANDERING GHOSTS 

stairs, but that was the draught from the leaky 
window on the landing. Did you hear anything ? 
Yes, there was another scream. Am I pale, do 
you say? That's nothing. My heart is a little 
queer sometimes, and I went upstairs too fast. In 
fact, that's one reason why I really prefer to live 
altogether on the ground floor. 

Wherever that shriek came from, it was not 
from the skull, for I had the box in my hand 
when I heard the noise, and here it is now ; so we 
have proved definitely that the screams are pro- 
duced by something else. I've no doubt I shall 
find out some day what makes them. Some 
crevice in the wall, of course, or a crack in a 
chimney, or a chink in the frame of a window. 
That's the way all ghost stories end in real 
life. Do you know, I'm jolly glad I thought of 
going up and bringing it down for you to see, for 
that last shriek settles the question. To think 
that I should have been so weak as to fancy that 
the poor skall could really cry out like a living 
thing ! 

Now I'll open the box, and we'll take it out 
and look at it under the bright light. It's rather 
awful to think that the poor lady used to sit there, 
in your chair, evening after evening, in just the 
same light, isn't it ? But then — I've made up 
my mind that it's all rubbish from beginning 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 81 

to end, and that it's just an old skull that Luke 
had when he was a student ; and perhaps he put 
it into the lime merely to whiten it, and could 
not find the jaw. 

I made a seal on the string, you see, after I 
had put the jaw in its place, and I wrote on the 
cover. There's the old white label on it still, from 
the milliner's, addressed to Mrs. Pratt when the 
hat was sent to her, and as there was room I 
wrote on the edge : " A skull, once the property 
of the late Luke Pratt, M.D." I don't quite know 
why I wrote that, unless it was with the idea of 
explaining how the thing happened to b-e in my 
possession. I cannot help wondering sometimes 
what sort of hat it was that came in the bandbox. 
What colour was it, do you think? Was it a 
gay spring hat with a bobbing feather and 
pretty ribands? Strange that the very same 
box should hold the head that wore the finery 
— perhaps. No — we made up our minds that 
it just came from the hospital in London where 
Luke did his time. It's far better to look at 
it in that light, isn't it? There's no more con- 
nection between that skull and poor Mrs. Pratt 
than there was between my story about the lead 
and — — 

Good Lord! Take the lamp — don't let it 
go out, if you can help it — I'll have the window 



82 WANDERING GHOSTS 

fastened again in a second — I say, what a gale ! 
There, it's out ! I tc'd you so ! Never mind, 
there's the firelight — I've got the window shut 

— the bolt was only half down. Was the box 
blown off the table ? Where the deuce is it ? 
There ! That won't open again, for I've put up 
the bar. Good dodge, an old-fashioned bar — 
there's nothing like it. Now, you find the band- 
box while I light the lamp. Confound those 
wretched matches ! Yes, a pipe spill is better — 
it must light in the fire — I hadn't thought of it 

— thank you — there we are again. Now, where's 
the box? Yes^ put it back on the table, and we'll 
open it. 

That's the first time I have ever known the 
wind to burst that window open ; but it was 
partly carelessness on my part when I last shut 
it. Yes, of course I heard the scream. It seemed 
to go all round the house before it broke in 
at the window. That proves that it's always 
been the wind and nothing else, doesn't it? 
When it was not the wind, it was my imagina- 
tion. I've always been a very imaginative man : 
I must have been, though I did not know it. 
As we grow older we understand ourselves bet- 
ter, don't you know? 

I'll have a drop of the Hulstkamp neat, by 
way of an exception, since you are filling up 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 83 

yoiir glass. That damp gust chilled me, and 
with my rheumatic tendency I'm very much 
afraid of a chill, for the cold sometimes seems 
to stick in my joints all winter when it once 
gets in. 

By George, that's good stuff! I'll just light 
a fresh pipe, now that everything is snug again, 
and then we'll open the box. I'm so glad we 
heard that last scream together, with the skull 
here on the table between us, for a thing can- 
not possibly be in two places at the same time, 
and the noise most certainly came from outside, 
as any noise the wind makes must. You thought 
you heard it scream through the room after the 
window was burst open? Oh yes, so did I, but 
that was natural enough when everything was 
open. Of course we heard the wind. What could 
one expect? 

Look here, please. I want you to see that the 
seal is intact before we open the box together. 
Will you take my glasses? No, you have your 
own. All right. The seal is sound, you see, 
and you can read the words of the motto easily. 
"Sweet and low" — that's it — because the poem 
goes on " Wind of the Western sea," and says, 
" blow him again to me," and all that. Here 
is the seal on my watch-chain, where it's hung 
for more than forty years. My poor little wife 



84 WANDERING GHOSTS 

gave it to me when I was courting, and I 
never had any other. It was just Hke her to 
think of those words — she was always fond 
of Tennyson. 

It's of no use to cut the string, for it's fas- 
tened to the box, so I'll just break the wax and 
untie the knot, and afterward we'll seal it up 
again. You see, I like to feel that the thing 
is safe in its place, and that nobody can take 
it out. Not that I should suspect Trehearn of 
meddling with it, but I always feel that he 
knows a lot more than he tells. 

You see, I've managed it without breaking 
the string, though when I fastened it I never 
expected to open the bandbox again. The lid 
comes off easily enough. There ! Now look ! 

What? Nothing in it? Empty? It's gone, 
man, the skull is gone ! 

No, there's nothing the matter with me. I'm only 
trying to collect my thoughts. It's so stra:?-ge. 
I'm positively certain that it was inside when 
I put on the seal last spring. I can't have ima- 
gined that: it's utterly impossible. If I ever 
took a stiff glass with a friend now and then, I 
would admit that I might have made some idiotic 
mistake when I had taken too much. But I don't, 
and I never did. A pint of ale at supper and 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 85 

half a go of rum at bedtime was the most I ever 
took m my good days. I believe it's always 
we sober fellows who get rheumatism and gout ! 
Yet there was my seal, and there is the empty 
bandbox. That's plain enough. 

I say, I don't half like this. It's not right. 
There's something wrong about it, in my opinion. 
You needn't talk to me about supernatural mani- 
festations, for I don't believe in them, not a little 
bit ! Somebody must have tampered with the seal 
and stolen the skull. Sometimes, when I go out 
to work in the garden in summer, I leave my 
watch and chain on the table. Trehearn must 
have taken the seal then, and used it, for he 
would be quite sure that I should not come in 
for at least an hour. 

If it was not Trehearn — oh, don't talk to me 
about the possibility that the thing has got out 
by itself ! If it has, it must be somewhere about 
the house, in some out-of-the-way corner, waiting. 
We may come upon it anywhere, waiting for us, 
don't you know ? — just waiting in the dark. 
Then it will scream at me ; it will shriek at me 
in the dark, for it hates me, I tell you ! 

The bandbox is quite empty. We are not 
dreaming, either of us. There, I turn it upside 
down. 

What's that? Something fell out as I turned 



86 WANDERING GHOSTS 

it over. It's on the floor, it's near your feet, 
I know it is, and we must find it. Help me to 
find it, man. Have you got it? For God's sake, 
give it to me, quickly ! 

Lead ! I knew it when I heard it fall. I knew 
it couldn't be anything else by the little thud it 
made on the hearth-rug. So it was lead after all, 
and Luke did it. 

I feel a little bit shaken up — not exactly 
nervous, you know, but badly shaken up, that's 
the fact. Anybody would, I should think. After 
all, you cannot say that it's fear of the thing, for 
I went up and brought it down — at least, I be- 
lieved I was bringing it down, and that's the same 
thing, and by George, rather than give in to such 
silly nonsense, I'll take the box upstairs again and 
put it back in its place. It's not that. It's the 
certainty that the poor little woman came to her 
end in that way, by my fault, because I told the 
story. That's what is so dreadful. Somehow, I 
had always hoped that I should never be quite 
sure of it, but there is no doubting it now. Look 
at that ! 

Look at it ! That little lump of lead with no 
particular shape. Think of what it did, man ! 
Doesn't it make you shiver ? He gave her some- 
thing to make her sleep, of course, but there must 
have been one moment of awful agony. Think of 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 87 

having boiling lead poured into your brain. Think 
of it. She was dead before she could scream, but 
only think of — oh! there it is again — it's just 
outside — I know it's just outside — I can't keep 
it out of my head ! — oh ! — oh ! 

• •••••• 

You thought I had fainted ? No, I wish I had, 
for it would have stopped sooner. It's all very 
well to say that it's only a noise, and that a noise 
never hurt anybody — you're as white as a shroud 
yourself. There's only one thing to be done, if we 
hope to close an eye to-night. We must find it 
and put it back into its bandbox and shut it up in 
the cupboard, where it likes to be. I don't know 
how it got out, but it wants to get in again. 
That's why it screams so awfully to-night — it 
was never so bad as this — never since I first 

Bury it ? Yes, if we can find it, we'll bury it, 
if it takes us all night. We'll bury it sLx feet 
deep and ram down the earth over it, so that it 
shall never get out again, and if it screams, we 
shall hardly hear it so deep down. Quick, we'll 
get the lantern and look for it. It cannot be far 
away ; I'm sure it's just outside — it was coming 
in when I shut the window, I know it. 

Yes, you're quite right. I'm losing my senses, 
and I must get hold of myself. Don't speak to 
me for a minute or two 5 I'll sit quite still and 



88 WANDERING GHOSTS 

keep my eyes shut and repeat something I know. 
That's the best way. 

" Add together the altitude, the latitude, and the 
polar distance, divide by two and subtract the alti- 
tude from the half-sum ; then add the logarithm of 
the secant of the latitude, the cosecant of the polar 
distance, the cosine of the half-sum and the sine of 
the half -sum minus the altitude " — there! Don't 
say that I'm out of my senses, for my memory is all 
right, isn't it ? 

Of course, you may say that it's mechanical, 
and that we never foro-et the thino^s we learned 
when we were boys and have used almost every 
day for a lifetime. But that's the very point. 
When a man is going crazy, it's the mechanical 
part of his mind that gets out of order and won't 
work right ; he remembers things that never hap- 
pened, or he sees things that aren't real, or he 
hears noises when there is perfect silence. That's 
not what is the matter with either of us, is it ? 

Come, we'll get the lantern and go round the 
house. It's not raining — only blowing like old 
boots, as we used to say. The lantern is in the 
cupboard under the stairs in the hall, and I always 
keep it trimmed in case of a wreck. 

No use to look for the thing ? I don't see how 
you can say that. It was nonsense to talk of 
burying it, of course, for it doesn't want to be 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 89 

buried ; it wants to go back into its bandbox and 
be taken upstairs, poor thing ! Trehearn took it 
out, I know, and made the seal over again. Per- 
haps he took it to the churchyard, and he may 
have meant well. I daresay he thought that it 
would not scream any more if it were quietly laid 
in consecrated ground, near where it belongs. But 
it has come home. Yes, that's it. He's norfc half 
a bad fellow, Trehearn, and rather religiously in- 
clined, I think. Does not that sound natural, and 
reasonable, and well meant? He supposed it 
screamed because it was not decently buried — 
with the rest. But he was wrong. How should 
he know that it screams at me because it hates me, 
and because it's my fault that there was that little 
lump of lead in it ? 

No use to look for it, anyhow ? Nonsense ! I 
tell you it wants to be found — Hark ! what's 
that knocking ? Bo you hear it ? Knock — 
knock — knock — three times, then a pause, and 
then again. It has a hollow sound, hasn't it? 

It has come home. I've heard that knock before. 
It wants to come in and be taken upstairs, in its 
box. It's at the front door. 

Will you come with me? We'll take it in. 
Yes, I own that I don't like to go alone and open 
the door. The thing will roll in and stop against 
my foot, just as it did before, and the light will go 



90 WANDERING GHOSTS 

out. I'm a good deal shaken by finding that bit 
of lead, and, besides, my heart isn't quite right — 
too much strong tobacco, perhaps. Besides, I'm 
quite willing to own that I'm a bit nervous to-night, 
if I never was before in my life. 

That's right, come along ! I'll take the box 
with me, so as not to come back. Do you hear 
the knocking ? It's not like any other knocking 
I ever heard. If you will hold this door open, I 
can find the lantern under the stairs by the light 
from this room without bringing the lamp into the 
hall — it would only go out. 

The thing knows we are coming — hark! It's 
impatient to get in. Don't shut the door till 
the lantern is ready, whatever you do. There 
will be the usual trouble with the matches, I 
suppose — no, the first one, by Jove ! I tell 
you it wants to get in, so there's no trouble. 
All right with that door now ; shut it, please. 
Now come and hold the lantern, for it's blow- 
ing so hard outside that I shall have to use 
both hands. That's it, hold the light low. Do 
you hear the knocking still? Here goes — I'll 
open just enough with my foot against the bot- 
tom of the door — now ! 

Catch it ! it's only the wind that blows it 
across the floor, that's all — there's half a hur- 
ricane outside, I tell you ! Have you got it ? 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 91 

The bandbox is on the table. One minute, and 
I'll have the bar up. There ! 

Why did you throw it into the box so roughly ? 
It doesn't like that, you know. 

What do you say ? Bitten your hand ? Non- 
sense, man ! You did just what I did. You 
pressed the jaws together with your other hand 
and pinched yourself. Let me see. You don't 
mean to say you have drawn blood? You must 
have squeezed hard, by Jove, for the skin is cer- 
tainly torn. I'll give you some carbolic solution 
for it before we go to bed, for they say a scratch 
from a skull's tooth may go bad and give trouble. 

Come inside again and let me see it by the 
lamp. I'll bring the bandbox — never mind the 
lantern, it may just as well burn in the hall, 
for I shall need it presently when I go up the 
stairs. Yes, shut the door if you will; it makes 
it more cheerful and bright. Is your finger still 
bleeding ? I'll get you the carbolic in an instant ; 
just let me see the thing. 

Ugh ! There's a drop of blood on the upper 
jaw. It's on the eye-tooth. Ghastly, isn't it? 
When I saw it running along the floor of the 
hall, the strength almost went out of my hands, 
and I felt my knees bending; then I understood 
that it was the gale, driving it over the smooth 
boards. You don't blame me? No, I should 



92 WANDERING GHOSTS 

think not ! We were boys together, and we've seen 
a thing or two, and we may just as well own to each 
other that we were both in a beastly funk when it 
slid across the floor at you. No wonder you pinched 
your finger picking it up, after that, if I did the 
same thing out of sheer nervousness, in broad 
daylight, with the sun streaming in on me. 

Strange that the jaw should stick to it so 
closely, isn't it? I suppose it's the dampness, 
for it shuts like a vice — I have wiped off the 
drop of blood, for it was not nice to look at. 
I'm not going to try to open the jaws, don't 
be afraid ! I shall not play any tricks with 
the poor thing, but I'll just seal the box again, 
and we'll take it upstairs and put it away where 
it wants to be. The wax is on the writing-table 
by the window. Thank you. It will be long be- 
fore I leave my seal lying about again, for Tre- 
hearn to use, I can tell you. Explain? I don't 
explain natural phenomena, but if you choose to 
think that Trehearn had hidden it somewhere in 
the bushes, and that the gale blew it to the house 
against the door, and made it knock, as if it 
wanted to be let in, you're not thinking the im- 
possible, and I'm quite ready to agree with you. 

Do you see that ? You can swear that you've 
actually seen me seal it this time, in case any- 
thing of the kind should occur again. The wax 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 93 

fastens the strings to the lid, which cannot pos- 
sibly be lifted, even enough to get in one finger. 
You're quite satisfied, aren't you ? Yes. Besides, 
I shall lock the cupboard and keep the key in my 
pocket hereafter. 

Now we can take the lantern and go upstairs. 
Do you know? I'm very much inclined to agree 
with your theory that the wind blew it against the 
house. I'll go ahead, for I know the stairs ; 
just hold the lantern near my feet as we go 
up. How the wind howls and whistles ! Did 
you feel the sand on the floor under your shoes 
as we crossed the hall ? 

Yes — this is the door of the best bedroom. 
Hold up the lantern, please. This side, by the 
head of the bed. I left the cupboard open when 
I got the box. Isn't it queer how the faint odour 
of women's dresses will hang about an old closet 
for years ? This is the shelf. You've seen me 
set the box there, and now you see me turn the 
key and put it into my pocket. So that's done ! 

Good-night. Are you sure you're quite com- 
fortable ? It's not much of a room, but I dare- 
say you would as soon sleep here as upstairs 
to-night. If you want anything, sing out ; there's 
only a lath and plaster partition between us. 
There's not so much wind on this side by half. 



94 WANDERING GHOSTS 

There's the Hollands on the table, if you'll have 

one more nightcap. No ? Well, do as you please. 

Good-night again, and don't dream about that 

thing, if you can. 

• •••••• 

The following paragraph appeared in the Pen- 
raddon News^ 23rd November^ 1906 : 

"Mysterious Death of a Ketired Sea 

Captain 

" The village of Tredcombe is much disturbed by 
the stra.nge death of Captain Charles Braddock. 
and all sorts of impossible stories are circulating 
with regard to the circumstances, which certainly 
seem difficult of explanation. The retired captain, 
who had successfully commanded in his time the 
largest and fastest liners belonging to one of the 
principal transatlantic steamship companies, was 
found dead in his bed on Tuesday morning in his 
own cottage, a quarter of a mile from the village. 
An examination was made at once by the local 
practitioner, which revealed the horrible fact that 
the deceased had been bitten in the throat by a 
human assailant, with such amazing force as to 
crush the windpipe and cause death. The marks 
of the teeth of both jaws were so plainly visible on 
the skin that they could be counted, but the perpe- 



THE SCREAMING SKULL 95 

trator of the deed had evidently lost the two lower 
middle incisors. It is hoped that this peculiarity 
may help to identify the murderer, who can only 
be a dangerous escaped maniac. The deceased, 
though over sixty-five years of age, is said to have 
been a hale man of considerable physical strength, 
and it is remarkable that no signs of any struggle 
were visible in the room, nor could it be ascertained 
how the murderer had entered the house. Warn- 
ing has been sent to all the insane asylums in the 
United Kingdom, but as yet no information has 
been received regarding the escape of any danger- 
ous patient. 

" The coroner's jury returned the somewhat 
singular verdict that Captain Braddock came to 
his death ' by the hands or teeth of some person 
unknown.' The local surgeon is said to have ex- 
pressed privately the opinion that the maniac is a 
woman, a view he deduces from the small size of 
the jaws, as shown by the marks of the teeth. The 
whole affair is shrouded in mystery. Captain 
Braddock was a widower, and lived alone. He 
leaves no children." 

\_Note. — Students of ghost lore and haunted houses will 
find the foundation of the foregoing story in the legends 
about a skull which is still preserved in the farm-he use 
called Bettiscombe Manor, situated, I believe, on the Dorset- 
shire coast.] 



MAN OVERBOARD! 



MAN OVERBOARD! 

Yes — I have heard '^ Man overboard ! " a good 
many times since I was a boy, and once or twice 
I have seen the man go. There are more men lost 
in that way than passengers on ocean steamers 
ever learn of. I have stood looking over the rail 
on a dark night, when there was a step beside me, 
and something flew past my head like a big black 
bat — and then there was a splash ! Stokers often 
go like that. They go mad with the heat, and 
they slip up on deck and are gone before anybody 
can stop them, often without being seen or heard. 
Now and then a passenger will do it, but he gen- 
erally has what he thinks a pretty good reason. I 
have seen a man empty his revolver into a crowd 
of emigrants forward, and then go over like a 
rocket. Of course, any officer who respects him- 
self will do what he can to pick a man up, if the 
weather is not so heavy that he would have to risk 
his ship ; but I don't think I remember seeing a 
man come back when he was once fairly gone more 
than two or three times in all my life, though we 
have often picked up the life-buoy, and sometimes 

99 



100 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the fellow's cap. Stokers and passengers jump 
over ; I never knew a sailor to do that, drunk or 
sober. Yes, they say it has happened on hard 
ships, but I never knew a case myself. Once in a 
long time a man is fished out when it is just too 
late, and dies in the boat before you can get him 
aboard, and — well, I don't know that I ever told 
that story since it happened — I knew a fellow 
who went over, and came back dead. I didn't see 
him a;fter he came back ; only one of us did, but 
we all knew he was there. 

No, I am not giving you ^^ sharks." There isn't 
a shark in this story, and I don't know that I 
would tell it at all if we weren't alone, just you 
and I. But you and I have seen things in various 
parts, and maybe you will understand. Anyhow, 
you know that I am telling what I know about, 
and nothing else ; and it has been on my mind to 
tell you ever since it happened, only there hasn't 
been a chance. 

It's a long story, and it took some time to hap- 
pen; and it began a good many years ago, in 
October, as well as I can remember. I was mate 
then ; I passed the local Marine Board for master 
about three years later. She was the Heleii B, 
Jackson, of New York, with lumber for the West 
Indies, four-masted schooner. Captain Hackstaff. 
She was an old-fashioned one, even then — no 



MAN OVERBOARD I 101 

steam donkey, and all to do by hand. There were 
still sailors in the coasting trade in those days, you 
remember. She wasn't a hard ship, for the Old 
Man was better than most of them, though he kept 
to himself and had a face like a monkey-wrench. 
We were thirteen, all told, in the ship's company ; 
and some of them afterwards thought that might 
have had something to do with it, but I had all 
that nonsense knocked out of me when I was a 
boy. I don't mean to say that I like to go to sea 
on a Friday, but I have gone to sea on a Friday, 
and nothing has happened ; and twice before that 
we have been thirteen, because one of the hands 
didn't turn up at the last minute, and nothing 
ever happened either — nothing worse than the 
loss of a light spar or two, or a little canvas. 
Whenever I have been wrecked, we had sailed as 
cheerily as you please — no thirteens, no Fridays, 
no dead men in the hold. I believe it generally 
happens that way. 

I daresay you remember those two Benton boys 
that were so much alike ? It is no wonder, for 
they were twin brothers. They shipped with us 
as boys on the old Boston Belle, when you were 
mate and I was before the mast. I never was 
quite sure which vfas which of those two, even 
then ; and when they both had beards it was harder 
than ever to tell them apart. One was Jim, and 



102 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the other was Jack ; James Benton and John Ben- 
ton. The only difference I ever could see was, 
that one seemed to be rather more cheerful and in- 
clined to talk than the other ; but one couldn't 
even be sure of that. Perhaps they had moods. 
Anyhow, there was one of them that used to whistle 
when he was alone. He only knew one tune, and 
that was " Nancy Lee," and the other didn't know 
any tune at all ; but I may be mistaken about that, 
too. Perhaps they both knew it. 

Well, those two Benton boys turned up on board 
the Helen B. Jackson. They had been on half a 
dozen ships since the Boston Belle, and they had 
grown up and were good seamen. They had 
reddish beards and bright blue eyes and freckled 
faces; and they were quiet fellows, good workmen 
on rigging, pretty willing, and both good men at 
the wheel. They managed to be in the same watch 
— it was the port watch on the Helen B., and that 
was mine, and I had great confidence in them both. 
If there was any job aloft that needed two hands, 
they were always the first to jump into the rigging; 
but that doesn't often happen on a fore-and-aft 
schooner. If it breezed up, and the jibtopsail was 
to be taken in, they never minded a wetting, and 
they would be out at the bowsprit end before there 
was a hand at the downhaul. The men liked them 
for that, and because they didn't blow about what 



MAN OVERBOARD! 103 

they could do. I remember one day in a reefing 
job, the downhanl parted and came down on deck 
from the peak of the spanker. When the weather 
moderated, and we shook the reefs out, the down- 
haul was forgotten until we happened to think we 
might soon need it again. There was some sea on, 
and the boom was off, and the gaff was slamming. 
One of those Benton boys was at the wheel, and 
before I knew what he was doing, the other was 
out on the gaff with the end of the new downhaul, 
trying to reeve it through its block. The one who 
was steering watched him, and got as white as 
cheese. The other one was swinging about on the 
gaff end, and every time she rolled to leeward, he 
brought up with a jerk that would have sent any- 
thing but a monkey flying into space. But he 
didn't leave it until he had rove the new rope, and 
he got back all right. I think it was Jack at the 
wheel ; the one that seemed more cheerful, the one 
that whistled ^' Nancy Lee." He had rather have 
been doing the job himself than watch his brother 
do it, and he had a scared look ; but he kept her 
as steady as he could in the swell, and he drew a 
long breath when Jim had worked his way back 
to the peak-halliard block, and had something to 
hold on to. I think it was Jim. 

They had good togs, too, and they were neat and 
clean men in the forecastle. I knew they had 



104 WANDERING GHOSTS 

nobody belonging to them ashore — no mother, no 
sisters, and no wives; but somehow they both 
looked as if a woman overhauled them now and 
then. I remember that they had one ditty bag be- 
tween them, and they had a woman's thimble in it. 
One of the men said something about it to them, 
and they looked at each other ; and one smiled, 
but the other didn't. Most of their clothes were 
alike, but they had one red guernsey between them. 
For some time I used to think it was always the 
same one that wore it, and I thought that might 
be a way to tell them apart. But then I heard 
one asking the other for it, and saying that the 
other had worn it last. So that was no sign either. 
The cook was a West Indiaman, called James Law- 
ley; his father had been hanged for putting lights 
in cocoanut trees where they didn't belong. But 
he was a good cook, and knew his business; and 
it wasn't soup-and-bully and dog's-body every Sun- 
day. That's what I meant to say. On Sunday 
the cook called both those boys Jim, and on week- 
days he called them Jack. He used to say he 
must be right sometim.es if he did that, because 
even the hands on a painted clock point right twice 
a day. 

What started me to trying for some way of tell- 
ing the Bentons apart was this. I heard them 
talking about a girl. It was at night, in our 



MAN OVERBOARD! 105 

watch, and the wind had headed us off a little 
rather suddenly, and when we had flattened in the 
jibs, we clewed down the topsails, while the two 
Benton boys got the spanker sheet aft. One of 
them was at the helm. I coiled down the mizzen- 
topsail downhaul myself, and was going aft to see 
how she headed up, when I stopped to look at a 
light, and leaned against the deck-house. While 
I was standing there, I heard the two boys talk- 
ing. It sounded as if they had talked of the 
same thing before, and, as far as I could tell, the 
voice I heard first belonged to the one who wasn't 
quite so cheerful as the other — the one who was 
Jim when one knew which he was. 

" Does Mamie know ? " Jim asked. 

"Not yet," Jack answered quietly. He was at 
the wheel. " I mean to tell her next time we get 
home." 

" All right." 

That was all I heard, because I didn't care to 
stand there listening while they were talking 
about their own affairs ; so I went aft ;to look 
into the binnacle, and I told the one at the wheel 
to keep her so as long as she had way on her, 
for I thought the wind would back up again be- 
fore long, and there was land to leeward. When 
he answered, his voice, somehow, didn't sound like 
the cheerful one. Perhaps his brother had re- 



106 WANDERING GHOSTS 

lieved the wheel while they had been speaking, 
but what I had heard set me wondering which 
of them it was that had a girl at home. There's 
lots of time for wondering on a schooner in fair 
weather. 

After that I thought I noticed that the two 
brothers were more silent when they were to- 
gether. Perhaps they guessed that I had over- 
heard something that night, and kept quiet when 
I was about. Some men would have amused 
themselves by trying to chaff them separately 
about the girl at home, and I suppose whichever 
one it was would have let the cat out of the bag 
if I had done that. But, somehow, I didn't like 
to. Yes, I was thinking of getting married my- 
self at that time, so I had a sort of fellow-feeling 
for whichever one it was, that made me not want 
to chaff him. 

They didn't talk much, it seemed to me ; but 
in fair weather, when there was nothing to do at 
night, and one was steering, the other was ever- 
lastingly hanging round as if he were waiting to 
relieve the wheel, though he might have been en- 
joying a quiet nap for all I cared in such weather. 
Or else, when one was taking his turn at the look- 
out, the other would be sitting on an anchor be- 
side him. One kept near the other, at night more 
than in the daytime. I noticed that. They were 



MAN OVERBOARD! 107 

fond of sitting on that anchor, and they generally 
tucked away their pipes under it, for the Helen B. 
was a dry boat in most weather, and like most 
fore-and-afters was better on a wind than going 
free. With a beam sea we sometimes shipped a 
little water aft. We were by the stern, anyhow, 
on that voyage, and that is one reason why we 
lost the man. 

We fell in with a southerly gale, southeast at 
first; and then the barometer began to fall while 
you could watch it, and a long swell began to 
come up from the south' ard. A couple of months 
earlier we might have been in for a cyclone, but 
it's " October all over " in those waters, as you 
know better than I. It was just going to blow, 
and then it was to rain, that was all ; and we had 
plenty of time to make everything snug before it 
breezed up much. It blew harder after sunset, 
and by the time it was quite dark it was a full 
gale. We had shortened sail for it, but as we 
were by the stern we were carrying the spanker 
close reefed instead of the storm trysail. She 
steered better so, as long as we didn't have to 
heave to. I had the first watch with the Benton 
boys, and we had not been on deck an hour when 
a child might have seen that the weather meant 
business. 

The Old Man came up on deck and looked 



108 WANDERING GHOSTS 

round, and in less than a minute he told us to 
give her the trysail. That meant heaving to, and 
I was glad cf it ; for though the Helen B. was 
a good vessel enough, she wasn't a new ship by 
a long way, and it did her no good to drive her 
in that weather. I asked whether I should call 
all hands, but just then the cook came aft, and the 
Old Man said he thought we could manage the job 
without waking the sleepers, and the trysail was 
handy on deck already, for we hadn't been . ex- 
pecting anything better. We were all in oilskins, 
of course, and the night was as black as a coal 
mine, with only a ray of light from the slit in the 
binnacle shield, and you couldn't tell one man 
from another except by his voice. The Old Man 
took the wheel ; we got the boom amidships, and 
he jammed her into the wind until she had hardly 
any way. It was blowing now, and it was all 
that I and two others could do to get in the slack 
of the downhaul, while the others lowered away 
at the peak and throat, and we had our hands full 
to get a couple of turns round the wet sail. It's 
all child's play on a fore-and-after compared with 
reefing topsails in anything like weather, but the 
gear of a schooner sometimes does unhandy things 
that you don't expect, and those everlasting long 
halliards get foul of everything if they get adrift. 
I remember thinking how unhandy that particular 



MAN OVERBOARD! 109 

job was. Somebody unhooked the throat-halliard 
block, and thought he had hooked it into the head- 
cringle of the trysail, and sang out to hoist away, 
but he had missed it in the dark, and the heavy 
block went flying into the lee rigging, and nearly 
killed him when it swung back with the weather 
roll. Then the Old Man got her up in the wind 
until the jib was shaking like thunder ; then he 
held her off, and she went off as soon as the head- 
sails filled, and he couldn't get her back again 
without the spanker. Then the Helen B. did her 
favourite trick, and before we had time to say 
much, we had a sea over the quarter and were up 
to our waists, with the parrels of the trysail only 
half becketed round the mast, and the deck so full 
of gear that you couldn't put your foot on a plank, 
and the spanker beginning to get adrift again, be- 
ing badly stopped, and the general confusion and 
hell's delight that you can only have on a fore- 
and-after when there's nothing really serious the 
matter. Of course, I don't mean to say that the 
Old Man couldn't have steered his trick as well as 
you or I or any other seaman ; but I don't believe 
he had ever been on board the Helen B. before, or 
had his hand on her wheel till then ; and he didn't 
know her ways. I don't mean to say that what 
happened was his fault. I don't know whose fault 
it was. Perhaps nobody was to blame. But I 



no WANDERING GHOSTS 

knew something happened somewhere on board 
when we shipped that sea, and you'll never get 
it out of my head. I hadn't any spare time my- 
self, for I was becketing the rest of the trysail to 
the mast. We were on the starboard tack, and 
the throat-halliard came down to port as usual, 
and I suppose there were at least three men at it, 
hoisting away, while I was at the beckets. 

Now I am gc^ng to tell you something. You 
have known me, man and boy, several voyages; 
and you are older than I am ; and you have always 
been a good friend to me. Now, do you think I 
am the sort of man to think I hear things where 
there isn't anything to hear, or to think I see things 
when there is nothing to see? No, you don't. 
Thank you. Well now, I had passed the last 
becket, and I sang out to the men to sway away, 
and I was standing on the jaws of the spanker-gaff, 
with my left hand on the bolt-rope of the trysail, 
so that I could feel when it was board-taut, and I 
wasn't thinking of anything except being glad the 
job was over, and that we were going to heave her 
to. It was as black as a coal-pocket, except that 
you could see the streaks on the seas as they went 
by, and abaft the deck-house I could see the ray of 
light from the binnacle on the captain's yellow oil- 
skin as he stood at the wheel — or, rather, I might 
have seen it if I had looked round at that minute. 



MAN OVERBOARD! Ill 

But I didn't look round. I heard a man whistling. 
It was " Nanc}' Lee," and I could have sworn that 
the man was right over my head in the crosstrees. 
Only somehow I knew very well that if anybody 
could have been up there, and could have whistled 
a tune, there w^ere no living ears sharp enough to 
hear it on deck then. I heard it distinctly, and at 
the same time I heard the real whistling of the 
wind in the weather rigging, sharp and clear as 
the steam- whistle on a Dago's peanut-cart in New 
York. That was all right, that was as it should 
be ; but the other wasn't right ; and I felt queer 
and stiff, as if I couldn't move, and my hair was 
curling against the flannel lining of my sou'wester, 
and I thought somebody had dropped a lump of ice 
down my back. 

I said that the noise of the wind in the rigging 
was real, as if the other wasn't, for I felt that it 
wasn't, though I heard it. But it was, all the 
same ; for the captain heard it, too. When I came 
to relieve the wheel, while the men were clearing 
up decks, he was swearing. He was a quiet man, 
and I hadn't heard him swear before, and I don't 
think I did again, though several queer things 
happened after that. Perhaps he said all he had 
to say then ; I don't see how he could have Sciid 
anything more. I used to think nobody could swear 
like a Dane, except a Neapolitan or a South Ameri- 



112 WANDERING GHOSTS 

can ; but when I had heard the Old Man, I changed 
my mind. There's nothing afloat or ashore that can 
beat one of your quiet American skippers, if he gets 
off on that tack. I didn't need to ask him what was 
the matter, for I knew he had heard " Nancy Le6," 
as I had, only it affected us differently. 

He did not give me the wheel, but told me to 
go forward and get the second bonnet off the stay- 
sail, so as to keep her up better. As we tailed on 
to the sheet when it was done, the man next me 
knocked his sou'wester off against my shoulder, 
and his face came so close to me that I could see it 
in the dark. It must have been very white for me 
to see it, but I only thought of that afterwards. I 
don't see how any light could have fallen upon it, 
but I knew it was one of the Benton boys. I don't 
know what made me speak to him. " Hullo, Jim! 
Is that you ? " I asked. I don't know why I said 
Jim, rather than Jack. 

" I am Jack," he answered. 

We made all fast, and things were much quieter. 
" The Old Man heard you whistling ' Nancy Lee,' 
just now," I said, " and he didn't like it." 

It was as if there were a white light inside his 
face, and it was ghastly. I know his teeth chat- 
tered. But he didn't say anything, and the next 
minute he was somewhere in the dark trying to 
find his sou'wester at the foot of the mast. 



MAN OVERBOARD! 113 

When all was quiet, and she was hove to, coming 
to and falling off her four points as regularly as 
a pendulum, and the helm lashed a little to the 
lee, the Old Man turned in again, and I managed 
to light a pipe in the lee of the deck-house, for 
there was nothing more to be done till the gale 
chose to moderate, and the ship was as easy as a 
baby in its cradle. Of course the cook had gone 
below, as he might have done an hour earlier ; so 
there Avere supposed to be four of us in the watch. 
There was a man at the lookout, and there was a hand 
by the wheel, though there was no steering to be done, 
and I was having my pipe in the lee of the deck- 
house, and the fourth man was somewhere about 
decks, probably having a smoke, too. I thought 
some skippers I had sailed with would have called 
the watch aft, and given them a drink after that 
job, but it wasn't cold, and I guessed that our Old 
Man wouldn't be particularly generous in that 
way. My hands and feet were red-hot, and it would 
be time enough to get into dry clothes when it was 
my watch below ; so I stayed where I was, and 
smoked. But by and by, things being so quiet, I 
began to wonder why nobody moved on deck ; just 
that sort of restless wanting to know where every 
man is that one sometimes feels in a gale of wind 
on a dark night. So when I had finished my pipe, 
I began to move about. I went aft, and there was 



114 WANDERING GHOSTS 

a man leaning over the wheel, with his legs 
apart and both hands hanging down in the 
light from the binnacle, and his sou'wester 
over his eyes. Then I went forward, and there 
was a man at the lookout, with his back against 
the foremast, getting what shelter he could 
from the staysail. I knew by his small height 
that he was not one of the Benton boys. Then 
I went round by the weather side, and poked 
about in the dark, for I began to wonder where 
the other man was. But I couldn't find him, 
though I searched the decks until I got right 
aft again. It was certainly one of the Benton 
boys that was missing, but it wasn't like either 
of them to go below to change his clothes in such 
warm weather. The man at the wheel was the 
other, of course. I spoke to him. 

" Jim, what's become of vour brother ? " 

" I am Jack, sir." 

" Well, then. Jack, where's Jim ? He's not on 
deck." 

" I don't know, sir." 

When I had come up to him he had stood up 
from force of instinct, and had laid his hands on 
the spokes as if he were steering, though the 
wheel was lashed ; but he still bent his face down, 
and it was half hidden by the edge of his sou'- 
wester, while he seemed to be staring at the com- 



MAN OVERBOARD! 115 

pass. He spoke in a very low voice, but that was 
natural, for the captain had left his door open 
when he turned in, as it was a warm night in spite 
of the storm, and there was no fear of shipping 
any more water now. 

" What put it into your head to whistle like 
that, Jack ? You've been at sea long enough to 
know better.'' 

He said something, but I couldn't hear the 
words ; it sounded as if he were denying the charge. 

" Somebody whistled," I said. 

He didn't answer, and then, I don't know why, 
perhaps because the Old Man hadn't given us a 
drink, I cut half an inch off the plug of tobacco I 
had in my oilskin pocket, and gave it to him. He 
knew my tobacco was good, and he shoved it into 
his mouth with a word of thanks. I was on the 
weather side of the wheel. 

" Go forward and see if you can find Jim," I 
said. 

He started a little, and then stepped back and 
passed behind me, and was going along the weather 
side. Maybe his silence about the whistling had 
irritated me, and his taking it for granted that be- 
cause we were hove to and it was a dark night, he 
might go forward any way he pleased. Anyhow, 
I stopped him, though I spoke good-naturedly 
enough. 



116 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" Pass to leeward, Jack/' I said. 

He didn't answer, but crossed the deck between 
the binnacle and the deck-house to the lee side. 
She was only falling off and coming to, and riding 
the big seas as easily as possible, but the man was 
not steady on his feet and reeled against the 
corner of the deck-house and then against the lee 
rail. I was quite sure he couldn't have had any- 
thing to drink, for neither of the brothers were the 
kind to hide rum from their shipmates, if they had 
any, and the only spirits that were aboard were 
locked up in the captain's cabin. I wondered 
whether he had been hit by the throat-halliard 
block and was hurt. 

I left the wheel and went after him, but when I 
got to the corner of the deck-house I saw that he 
was on a full run forward, so I went back. I 
watched the compass for a while, to see how far 
she went off, and she must have come to again 
half a dozen times before I heard voices, more than 
three or four, forward; and then I heard the little 
West Indies cook's voice, high and shrill above the 
rest : 

" Man overboard ! " 

There wasn't anything to be done, with the ship 
hove to and the wheel lashed. If there was a man 
overboard, he must be in the water right alongside. 
I couldn't imagine how it could have happened, 



MAN OVERBOARD! 117 

but I ran forward instinctively. I came upon the 
cook first, half dressed in his shirt and trousers, 
just as he had tumbled out of his bunk. He was 
jumping into the main rigging, evidently hoping 
to see the man, as if any one could have seen 
anything on such a night, except the foam-streaks 
on tiie black water, and nov/ and then the curl of 
a breaking sea as it went away to leeward. 
Several of the men were peering over the rail into 
the dark. I caught the cook by the foot, and 
asked who was gone. 

"It's Jim Benton," he shouted down to me. 
" He's not aboard this ship ! " 

There was no doubt about that. Jim Benton 
was gone ; and I knew in a flash that he had been 
taken off by that sea when we were setting the 
storm trysail. It was nearly half an hour since 
then ; she had run like wild for a few minutes 
until we got her hove to, and no swimmer that 
ever swam could have lived as long as that in 
such a sea. The men knew it as well as I, but 
still they stared into the foam as if they had any 
chance of seeing the lost man. I let the cook get 
into the rigging and joined the men, and asked if 
they had made a thorough search on board, though 
I knew they had and that it could not take long, 
for he wasn't on deck, and there was only the 
forecastle below. 



118 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" That sea took Ldm over, sir, as sure as you're 
bom," said one of the men close beside me. 

We had no boat that could have lived in that 
sea, of course, and we all knew it. I offered to 
put one over, and let her drift astern two or three 
cables' lengths by a line, if the men thought they 
could haul me aboard again; but none of them 
would listen to that, and I should probably have 
been drowned if I had tried it, even with a life-belt ; 
for it was a breaking sea. Besides, they all knew 
as well as I did that the man could not be right in 
our wake. I don't know why I spoke again. 

" Jack Benton, are you there ? Will you go 
if I will?" 

" No, sir," answered a voice ; and that was all. 

By that time the Old Man was on deck, and I 
felt his hand on my shoulder rather roughly, as if 
he meant to shake me. 

" I'd reckoned you had more sense, Mr. Torkeld- 
sen," he said. " God knows I would risk my 
ship to look for him, if it were any use ; but he 
must have gone half an hour ago." 

He was a quiet man, and the men knew he was 
right, and that they had seen the last of Jim 
Benton when they were bending the trysail — if 
anybody had seen him then. The captain went 
below again, and for some time the men stood 
around Jack, quite near him, without saying 



MAN OVERBOARD! 119 

anything, as sailors do when they are sorry for a 
man and can't help him; and then the watch 
below turned in again, and we were three on deck. 

Nobody can understand that there can be much 
consolation in a funeral, unless he has felt that 
blank feeling there is when a man's gone over- 
board whom everybody likes. I suppose landsmen 
think it would be easier if they didn't have to bury 
their fathers and mothers and friends; but it 
wouldn't be. Somehow the funeral keeps up the 
idea of something beyond. You may believe 
in that something just the same ; but a man who 
has gone in the dark, between two seas, without 
a cry, seems much more beyond reach than if he 
were still lying on his bed, and had only just 
stopped breathing. Perhaps Jim Bentcn knew 
that, and wanted to come back to us. I don't 
know, and I am only telling you what happened, 
and you may think what you like. 

Jack stuck by the wheel that night until the 
watch was over. I don't know whether he slept 
afterwards, but when I came on deck four hours 
later, there he was again, in his oilskins, with his 
sou'wester over his eyes, staring into the binnacle. 
We saw that he would rather stand there, and we 
left him alone. Perhaps it was some consolation 
to him to get that ray of light when everything was 
so dark. It began to rain, too, as it can when a 



120 WANDERING GHOSTS 

soutlierly gale is going to break up, and we got 
every bucket and tub on board, and set them under 
the booms to catch the fresh water for washing 
our clothes. The rain made it very thick, and I 
went and stood under the lee of the staysail, look- 
ing out. I could tell that day was breaking, 
because the foam was whiter in the dark where the 
seas crested, and little by little the black rain 
grew grey and steamy, and I couldn't see the red 
glare of the port light on the water when she 
went off and rolled to leeward. The gale had 
moderated considerably, and in another hour we 
should be under way again. I was still standing 
there when Jack Benton came forward. He stood 
still a few minutes near me. The rain came down 
in a solid sheet, and I could see his wet beard and 
a corner of his cheek, too, grey in the dawn. 
Then he stooped down and began feeling under 
the anchor for his pipe. We had hardly shipped 
any water forward, and I suppose he had some 
way of tucking the pipe in, so that the rain hadn't 
floated it off. Presently he got on his legs again, 
and I saw that he had two pipes in his hand. One 
of them had belonged to his brother, and after look- 
ing at them a moment I suppose he recognized his 
own, for he put it in his mouth, dripping with 
water. Then he looked at the other fully a 
minute without moving. When he had made up 



MAN OVERBOARD! 121 

his mind, I suppose, he quietly chucked it over the 
lee rail, without even looking round to see whether 
I was watching him. I thought it was a pity, for 
it was a good wooden pipe, with a nickel ferrule, 
and somebody would have been glad to have 
it. But I didn't like to make any remark, for he 
had a right to do what he pleased with what had 
belonged to his dead brother. He blew the water 
out of his own pipe, and dried it against his jacket, 
putting his hand inside his oilskin ; he filled it, 
standing under the lee of the foremast, got a light 
aftsr wasting two or three matches, and turned the 
pipe upside down in his teeth, to keep the rain out 
of the bowl. I don't know why I noticed every- 
thing he did, and remember it now ; but somehow 
I felt sorry for him, and I kept wondering whether 
there was anything I could say that would make 
him feel better. But I didn't think of anything, 
and as it was broad dayhght I went aft again, for 
I guessed that the Old Man would turn out before 
long and order the spanker set and the helm up. 
But he didn't turn out before seven bells, just as 
the clouds broke and showed blue sky to leeward ^ — 
" the Frenchman's barometer," you used to call it. 
Some people don't seem to be so dead, when 
they are dead, as others are. Jim Benton was 
like that. He had been on my watch, and I 
couldn't get used to the idea that he wasn't 



122 WANDERING GHOSTS 

about decks with. me. I was always expecting 
to see him, and his brother was so exactly like 
him that I often felt as if I did see him and 
forgot he was dead, and made the mistake 
of calling Jack by his name ; though I tried not 
to, because I knew it must hurt. If ever Jack 
had been the cheerful one of tho two, as I had 
always supposed he had been, he had changed 
very much, for he grew to be more silent than 
Jim had ever been. 

One fine afternoon I was sitting on the main- 
hatch, overhauling the clockwork of the taffrail- 
log, which hadn't been registering very well of 
late, and I had got the cook to bring me a 
coffee-cup to held the small screws as I took 
them out, and a saucer for the sperm oil I was 
going to use. I noticed that he didn't go away, 
but hung round without exactly watching what 
I was doing, as if he wanted to say something 
to me. I thought if it were worth much, he 
would say it anyhow, so I didn't ask him ques- 
tions ; and sure enough he began of his own 
accord before long. There was nobody on deck 
but the man at the wheel, and the other man 
away forward. 

" Mr. Torkeldsen/' the cook began, and then 
stopped. 

I supposed he was going to ask me to let 



MAN OVERBOARD I 123 

the watch break out a barrel of flour, or some 
salt horse. 

" Well, doctor ? " I asked, as he didn't go on. 

" Well, Mr. Torkeldsen," he answered, " I some- 
how want to ask you whether you think I am 
giving satisfaction on this ship, or net ? " 

" So far as I know, you are, doctor. I haven't 
heard any complaints from the forecastle, and 
the captain has said nothing, and I think you 
know your business, and the cabin-boy is burst- 
ing out of his clothes. That looks as if you 
are giving satisfaction. What makes you think 
you are not?" 

I am not good at giving you that West Indies 
talk, and shan't try ; but the doctor beat about 
the bush awhile, and then he told me he thought 
the men were beginning to play tricks on him, 
and he didn't like it, and thought he hadn't 
deserved it, and would hke his discharge at our 

next port. I told him he was a d d fool, 

of course, to begin with ; and that men were 
more apt to try a joke with a chap they liked 
than with anybody they wanted to get rid of ; 
unless it was a bad joke, like flooding his bunk, 
or filling his boots with tar. But it wasn't that 
kind of practical joke. The doctor said that the 
men were trying to frighten him, and he didn't 
like it, and that they put things in his way 



124 WANDERING GHOSTS 

that frightened him. So I told him he was a 

d d fool to be frightened, anyway, and I 

wanted to know what things they put in his 
way. He gave me a queer answer. He said 
they were spoons and forks, and odd plates, and 
a cup now and then, and such things. 

I set down the taffrail-log on the bit of canvas 
I had put under it, and looked at the doctor. 
He was uneasy, and his eyes had a sort of 
hunted look, and his yellow face looked grey. 
He wasn't trying to make trouble. He was in 
trouble. So I asked him questions. 

He said he could count as well as anybody, and 
do sums without using his fingers, but that when 
he couldn't count any other way, he did use his 
fingers, and it always came out the same. He said 
that when he and the cabin-boy cleared up after 
the men's meals there were more things to wash 
than he had given out. There' d be a fork more, or 
there' d be a spoon more, and sometimes there' d be 
a spoon and a fork, and there was always a plate 
more. It wasn't that he complained of that. 
Before poor Jim Benton was lost they had a man 
more to feed, and his gear to wash up after meals, 
and that was in the contract, the doctor said. It 
would have been if there were twenty in the ship's 
company ; but he didn't think it was right for the 
men to play tricks like that. He kept his things 



MAN OVERBOARD!, 125 

in good order, and he counted them, and he was re- 
sponsible for them, and it wasa't right that the 
men should take more things than they needed 
when his back was turned, and just soil them and 
mix them up with their own, so as to make him 
think — 

He stopped there, and looked at me, and I 
looked at him. I didn't know what he thought, 
but I began to guess. I wasn't going to humour 
any such nonsense as that, so I told him to speak 
to the men himself, and not come bothering me 
about such things. 

'' Count the plates and forks and spoons before 
them when they sit down to table, and tell them 
that's all they'll get ; and when they have finished, 
count the things again, and if the count isn't 
right, find out who did it. You know it must be 
one of them. You're not a green hand ; you've 
been going to sea ten or eleven years, and don't 
want any lessons about how to behave if the boys 
play a trick on you." 

" If I could catch him," said the cook, " I'd have 
a knife into him before he could say his prayers." 

Those West India men are always talking about 
knives, especially when they are badly frightened. 
I knew what he meant, and didn't ask him, but 
went on cleaning the brass cog-wheels of the 
patent log, and oiling the bearings with a feather. 



126 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" Wouldn't it be better to wash it out with boiling 
water, sir ?" asked the cook in an insinuating tone. 
He knew that he had made a fool of himself, and 
was anxious to make it right again. 

I heard no more about the odd platter and gear 
for two or three days, though I thought about his 
story a good deal. The doctor evidently believed that 
Jim Benton had come back, though he didn't quite 
like to say so. His story had sounded silly enough 
on a bright afternoon, in fair weather, when the sun 
was on the water, and every rag was drawing in the 
breeze, and the sea looked as pleasant and as harm- 
less as a cat that has just eaten a canary. But 
when it was toward the end of the first watch, and 
the waning moon had not risen yet, and the water 
was like still oil, and the jibs hung down flat and 
helpless Hke the wings of a dead bird — it wasn't 
the same then. More than once I have started then 
and looked round when a fish jumped, expecting to 
see a face sticking out of the water with its eyes 
shut. I think we all felt something like that at 
the time. 

One afternoon we were putting a fresh service 
on the jib-sheet-pennant. It wasn't my watch, 
but I was standing by, looking on. Just then 
Jack Benton came up from below, and went to 
look for his pipe under the anchor. His face was 
hard and drawn, and his eyes were cold like steel 



MAN OVERBOARD! 127 

balls. He hardly ever spoke now, but he did his 
duty as usual, and nobody had to complain of him, 
though we were all beginning to wonder how long 
his grief for his dead brother was going to last like 
that. I watched him as he crouched down, and 
ran his hand into the hiding-place for the pipe. 
When he stood up, he had two pipes in his hand. 

Now, I remembered very well seeing him throw 
one of those pipes away, early in the morning after 
the gale ; and it came to me now, and I didn't 
suppose he kept a stock of them under the anchor. 
I cauglit sight of his face, and it was greenish 
white, like the foam on shallow water, and he 
stood a long time looking at the two pipes. He 
wasn't looking to see which was his, for I wasn't 
five yards from him as he stood, and one of those 
pipes had been smoked that day, and was shiny 
where his hand had rubbed it, and the bone mouth- 
piece was chafed white where his teeth had bitten 
it. The other was water-logged. It was swelled 
and cracking with wet, and it looked to me as if 
there were a little green weed on it. 

Jack Benton turned his head rather stealthily 
as I looked away, and then he hid the thing in his 
trousers pocket, and went aft on the lee side, out 
of sight. The men had got the sheet-pennant on 
a stretch to serve it, but I ducked under it and 
stood where I could see what Jack did, just under 



128 WANDERING GHOSTS 

tlie fore-staysail. He couldn't see me, and he was 
looking about for something. His hand shook as 
he picked up a bit of half-bent iron rod, about a 
foot long, that had been used for turning an eye- 
bolt, and had been left on the main-hatch. His 
hand shook as he got a piece of marline out of his 
pocket, and made the water-logged pipe fast to the 
iron. He didn't mean it to get adrift either, for 
he took his turns carefully, and hove them taut 
and then rode them, so that they couldn't slip, and 
made the end fast with two half- hitches round the 
iron, and hitched it back on itself. Then he tried 
it with his hands, and looked up and down the 
deck furtively, and then quietly dropped the pipe 
and iron over the rail, so that I didn't even hear 
the splash. If anybody was playing tricks on 
board, they weren't meant for the cook. 

I asked some questions about Jack Benton, and 
one of the men told me that he was off his feed, 
and hardly ate anything, and swallowed all the 
coffee he could lay his hands on, and had used up 
all his own tobacco and had begun on what his 
brother had left. 

" The doctor says it ain't so, sir," said the man, 
looking at me shyly, as if he didn't expect to be 
believed ; " the doctor says there's as much eaten 
from breakfast to breakfast as there was before 
Jim fell overboard, though there's a mouth less 



MAN OVERBOARD! 129 

and another that eats nothing. I says it's the 
cabin-boy that gets it. He's bu' sting." 

I told him that if the cabin-boy ate more than 
his share, he must work more than his share, so as 
to balance things. But the man laughed queerly, 
and looked at me again. 

" I only said that, sir, just like that. We all 
know it ain't so." 

^^ Well, how is it?" 

" How is it ? " asked the man, half -angry all at 
once. " I don't know how it is, but there's a 
hand on board that's getting his whack along 
with us as regular as the bells." 

" Does he use tobacco ? " I asked, meaning to 
laugh it out of him, but as I spoke, I remembered 
the water-logged pipe. 

"I guess he's using his own still," the man 
answered, in a queer, low voice. " Perhaps he'll 
take some one else's when his is all gone." 

It was about nine o'clock in the morning, I re- 
member, for just then the captain called to me to 
stand by the chronometer while he took his fore 
observation. Captain Hacksta:E wasn't one of 
those old skippers who do everything themselves 
with a pocket watch, and keep the key of the 
chronometer in their waistcoat pocket, and won't 
tell the mate how far the dead reckoning is out. 
He was rather the other way, and I was glad of it, 



130 WANDERING GHOSTS 

for he generally let me work the sights he took, 
and just ran his eye over my figures afterwards. 
I am bound to say his eye was pretty good, for he 
would pick out a mistake in a logarithm, or tell 
me that I had worked the " Equation of Time " 
with the wrong sign, before it seemed to me that 
he could have got as far as " half the sum, minus 
the altitude." He was always right, too, and 
besides he knew a lot about iron ships and local 
deviation, and adjusting the compass, and all that 
sort of thing. I don't know how he came to be in 
command of a fore-and-aft schooner. He never 
talked about himself, and maybe he had just been 
mate on one of those big steel square-riggers, and 
something had put him back. Perhaps he had 
been captain, and had got his ship aground, through 
no particular fault of his, and had to begin over 
again. Sometimes he talked just like you and me, 
and sometimes he would speak more lilve books do, 
or some of those Boston people I have heard. I 
don't know. We have all been shipmates now 
and then with men who have seen better days. 
Perhaps he had been in the Navy, but what makes 
me think he couldn't have been, was that he was 
a thorough good seaman, a regular old wind- 
jammer, and understood sail, which those Navy 
chaps rarely do. Why, you and I have sailed with 
men before the mast who had their master's cerbifi- 



MAN OVERBOARD! 131 

cates in their pockets — English Board of Trade 
certificates, too — who could work a double alti- 
tude if you would lend them a sextant and give 
them a look at the chronometer, as well as many a 
man who commands a big square-rigger. Navigation 
ain't everything, nor seamanship either. You've 
got to have it in you, if you mean to get there. 

I don't know how our captain heard that there was 
trouble forward. The cabin-boy may have told him, 
or the men may have talked outside his door when 
they relieved the wheel at night. Anyhow, he got 
wind of it, and when he had got his sight that 
morning, he had all hands aft, and gave them a 
lecture. It was just the kind of talk you might 
have expected from him. He said he hadn't any 
complaint to make, and that so far as he knew 
everybody on board was doing his duty, and that 
he was given to understand that the men got their 
whack, and were satisfied. He said his ship was 
never a hard ship, and that he liked quiet, and 
that was the reason he didn't mean to have any 
nonsense, and the men might just as well under- 
stand that, too. We'd had a great misfortune, he 
said, and it was nobody's fault. We had lost a 
man we all liked and respected, and he felt that 
everybody in the ship ought to be sorry for the 
man's brother, who was left behind, and that it was 
rotten lubberly childishness, and unjust and un- 



132 WANDERING GHOSTS 

manly and cowardly, to be playing schoolboy tricks 
with forks and spoons and pipes, and that sort of 
gear. He said it had got to stop right now, and 
that was all, and the men might go forward. And 
so they did. 

It got worse after that, and the men watched 
the cook, and the cook watched the men, as if they 
were trying to catch each other ; but I think every- 
body felt that there was something else. One 
evening, at supper-time, I was on deck, and Jack 
came aft to reheve the wheel while the man who 
was steering got his supper. He hadn't got past 
the main-hatch on the lee side, when I heard a man 
running in slippers that slapped on the deck, and 
there was a sort of a yell and I saw the coloured 
cook going for Jack, with a carving knife in his 
hand. I jumped to get between them, and Jack 
turned round short, and put out his hand. I was 
too far to reach them, and the cook jabbed out 
with his knife. But the blade didn't get anywhere 
near Benton. The cook seemed to be jabbing it 
into the air again and again, at least four feet 
short of the mark. Then he dropped his right 
hand, and I saw the whites of his eyes in the dusk, 
and he reeled up against the pin-rail, and caught 
hold of a belaying-pin with his left. I had reached 
him by that time, and grabbed hold of his knife- 
hand, and the other, too, for I thought he was 



MAN OVERBOARD! 133 

going to use the pin ; but Jack Benton was stand- 
ing staring stupidly at him, as if he didn't under- 
stand. But instead, the cook was holding on 
because he couldn't stand, and his teeth were chat- 
tering, and he let go of the knife, and the point 
stuck into the deck. 

" He's crazy ! " said Jack Benton, and that was 
all he said; and he went aft. 

When he was gone, the cook began to come to, 
and he spoke quite low, near my ear. 

" There were two of them ! So help me God, 
there were two of them ! " 

I don't know why I didn't take him by the collar, 
and give him a good shaking ; but I didn't. I just 
picked up the knife and gave it to him, and told 
him to go back to his galley, and not to make a 
fool of himself. You see, he hadn't struck at Jack, 
but at something he thought he saw, and I knew 
what it was, and I felt that same thing, like a 
lump of ice sliding down my back, that I felt that 
night when we were bending the trysail. 

When the men had seen hixn running aft, they 
jumped up after him, but they held off when they 
saw that I had caught him. By and by, the man 
who had spoken to me before told me what had 
happened. He was a stocky little chap, with a 
red head. 

" Well," he said, " there isn't much to tell. Jack 



134 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Benton had been eating his supper with the rest 
of us. He always sits at the after corner of the 
table, on the port side. His brother used to sit at 
the end, next him. The doctor gave him a thun- 
dering big piece of pie to finish up with, and when 
he had finished he didn't stop for a smoke, but 
went off quick to relieve the wheel. Just as he 
had gone, the doctor came in from the galley, and 
when he saw Jack's empty plate he stood stock still 
staring at it ; and we all wondered what was the 
matter, till we looked at the plate. There were 
two forks in it, sir, lying side by side. Then the 
doctor grabbed his knife, and flew up through the 
hatch like a rocket. The other fork was there 
all right, Mr. Torkeldsen, for we all saw it and 
handled it ; and we all had our own. That's all I 
know." 

I didn't feel that I wanted to laugh when he 
told me that story; but I hoped the Old Man 
wouldn't hear it, for I knew he wouldn't believe it, 
and no captain that ever sailed likes to have stories 
like that going round about his ship. It gives her a 
bad name . But that was all anybody ever saw except 
the cook, and he isn't the first man who has thought 
he saw things without having any drink in him. 
I think, if the doctor had been weak in the head, 
as he was afterwards, he might have done some- 
thing foolish again, and there might have been 



MAN OVERBOARD! 135 

serious trouble. But he didn't. Only, two or 
three times, I saw him looking at Jack Benton in a 
queer, scared way, and once I heard him talking to 
himself. 

" There's two of them! So help me God, there's 
two of them ! " 

He didn't say anything more about asking for 
his discharge, but I knew well enough that if he 
got ashore at the next port we should never see 
him again, if he had to leave his kit behind him, 
and his money, too. He was scared all through, 
for good and all ; and he wouldn't be right again 
till he got another ship. It's no use to talk to a 
man when he gets like that, any more than it is to 
send a boy to the main truck when he has lost his 
nerve. 

Jack Benton never spoke of what happened that 
evening. I don't know whether he knew about the 
two forks, or not ; or whether he understood what 
the trouble was. Whatever he knew from the other 
men, he was evidently living under a hard strain. 
He was quiet enough, and too quiet ; but his face 
was set, and sometimes it twitched oddly when he 
was at the wheel, and he would turn his head round 
sharp to look behind him. A man doesn't do that 
naturally, unless there's a vessel that he thinks is 
creeping up on the quarter. When that happens, 
if the man at the wheel takes a pride in his ship. 



136 WANDERING GHOSTS 

he will almost always keep glancing over his 
shoulder to see whej^her the other fellow is gaining. 
But Jack Benton used to look round when there 
wap nothing there ; and what is curious, the other 
men seemed to catch the trick when they were 
steering. One day the Old Man turned out just 
as the man at the wheel looked behind him. 

^' What are you looking at ? " asked the captain. 

"Nothing, sir," answered the man. 

" Then keep your eye on the mizzen-royal," said 
the Old Man, as if he were forgetting that we 
weren't a square-rigger. 

"Ay, ay, sir," said the man. 

The captain told me to go below and work up 
the latitude from the dead-reckoning, and he went 
forward of the deck-house and sat down to read, as 
he often did. When I came up, the man at the 
wb Bel was looking round again, and I stood beside 
him and just asked him quietly what everybody 
was looking at, for it was getting to be a general 
habit. He wouldn't say anything at first, but just 
answered that it was nothing. But when he saw 
that I didn't seem to care, and just stood there as 
if there were nothing more to be said, he naturally 
began to talk. 

He said that it wasn't that he saw anything, be- 
cause there wasn't anything to see except the spanker 
sheet just straining a little, and working in the 



MAN OVERBOARD! 137 

sheaves of the blocks as the schooner rose to the 
short seas. There wasn't anything to be seen, but 
it seemed to him that the sheet made a queer noise 
in the blocks. It was a new manilla shee+ ; and 
in dry weather it did make a little noise, some- 
thing between a creak and a wheeze. I looked at 
it and looked at the man, and said nothing ; and 
presently he went on. He asked me if I didn't 
notice anything peculiar about the noise. I 
listened awhile, and said I didn't notice anything. 

Then he looked rather sheepish, but said he 
didn't think it could be his own ears, because 
every man who steered his trick heard the same 
thing now and then, — sometimes once in a day, 
somethnes once in a night, sometimes it would go 
on a whole hour. 

" It sounds like sawing wood," I said, just like 
that. 

" To us it sounds a good deal more like a man 
whistling ^ Nancy Lee.'" He started nervously as 
he spoke the last words. '^ There, sir, don't you 
hear it ? '^ he asked suddenly, 

I heard nothing but the creaking of the manilla 
sheet. It was getting near noon, and fine, clear 
weather in southern waters, — just the sort of day 
and the time when you would least expect to feel 
creepy. But I remembered how I had heard that 
same tune overhead at night in a gale of wind a fort- 



138 WANDERING GHOSTS 

night earlier, and I am not ashamed to say that 
the same sensation came over me now, and I wished 
myself well out of the Helen B., and aboard of any 
old cai'go-dragger, with a windmill on deck, and an 
eighty-nine-forty-eighter for captain, and a fresh 
leak whenever it breezed up. 

Little by little during the next few days life 
on board that vessel came to be about as un- 
bearable as you can imagine. It wasn't that there 
was much talk, for I think the men were shy 
even of speaking to each other freely about what 
they thought. The whole ship's company grew 
silent, until one hardly ever heard a voice, except 
giving an order and the answer. The men didn't 
sit over their meals when their watch was below, 
but either turned in at once or sat about on the 
forecastle, smoking their pipes without saying a 
word. We were all thinking of the same thing. 
We all felt as if there were a hand on board, 
sometimes below, sometimes about decks, some- 
times aloft, sometimes on the boom end ; taking 
his full share of what the others got, but doing 
no work for it. We didn't onlv feel it, we knew 
it. He took up no room, he cast no shadow, and 
we never heard his footfall on deck ; but he took 
his whack with the rest as regular as the bells, 
and — he whistled ^^ Nancy Lee." It was like the 
worst sort of dream you can imagine; and I 



MAN OVERBOARD! 139 

daresay a good many of us tried to believe it was 
nothing else sometimes, when we stood looking 
over the weather rail in fine weather with the 
breeze in our faces; but if we happened to turn 
round and look into each other's eyes, we knew it 
was something worse than any dream could be ; 
and we would turn away from each other with 
a queer, sick feeling, wishing that we could just 
for once see somebody who didn't know what we 
knew. 

There's not much more to tell about the Helen 
B, Jachsouj so far as I am concerned. We were 
more like a shipload of lunatics than anything 
else when we ran in under Morro Castle and an- 
chored in Havana. The cook had brain fever, 
and was raving mad in his delirium ; and the rest 
of the men weren't far from the same state. The 
last three or four days had been awful, and we 
had been as near to having a mutiny on board as 
I ever want to be. The men didn't want to hurt 
anybody; but they wanted to get away out of 
that ship, if they had to swim for it ; to get away 
from that whistling, from that dead shipmate who 
had come back, and who filled the ship with his 
unseen self ! I know that if the Old Man and I 
hadn't kept a sharp lookout, the men would have 
put a boat over quietly on one of those calm 
nights, and pulled away, leaving the captain and 



140 WANDERING GHOSTS 

me and the mad cook to work tlie schooner into 
harbour. We should have done it somehow, of 
course, for we hadn't far to run if we could get a 
breeze ; and once or twice I found myself wishing 
that the crew were really gone, for the awful 
state of fright in which they lived was beginning 
to work on me too. You see I partly believed 
and partly didn't; but, anyhow, I didn't mean to 
let the thing get the better of me, whatever it 
was. I turned crusty, too, and kept the men at 
work on all sorts of jobs, and drove them to it 
until they wished I was overboard, too. It wasn't 
that the Old Man and I were trying to drive 
them to desert without their pay, as I am sorry 
to say a good many skippers and mates do, even 
now. Captain Hackstaff was as straight as a 
string, and I didn't mean those poor fellows should 
be cheated out of a single cent ; and I didn't blame 
them for w^anting to leave the ship, but it seemed 
to me that the only chance to keep everybody 
sane through those last days was to work the men 
till they dropped. When they were dead tired 
they slept a httle, and forgot the thing until they 
had to tumble up on deck and face it again. That 
was a good many years ago. Do you beheve that 
I can't hear " Nancy Lee " now, without feeling 
cold down my back ? For I heard it, too, now 
and then, after the man had explained why he 



MAN OVERBOARD! 141 

was always looking over his shoulder. Perhaps 
it was imagination. I don't know. When I look 
back it seems to me that I only remember a long 
fight against something I couldn't see, against an 
appalling presence, against something worse than 
cholera or Yellow Jack or the plague — and, good- 
ness knows, the mildest of them is bad enough 
when it breaks out at sea. The men got as white 
as chalk, and wouldn't go about decks alone at 
night, no matter what I said to them. With the 
cook raving in his bunk, the forecastle would have 
been a perfect hell, and there wasn't a spare 
cabin on board. There never is on a fore-and- 
after. So I put him into mine, and he was more 
quiet there, and at last fell into a sort of stupor 
as if he were going to die. I don't know what 
became of him, for we put him ashore alive and 
left him in the hospital. 

The men came aft in a body, quiet enough, 
and asked the captain if he wouldn't pay them 
off, and let them go ashore. Some men wouldn't 
have done it, for they had shipped for the voyage, 
and had signed articles. But the captain knew 
that when sailors get an idea into their heads, 
they're no better than children ; and if he forced 
them to stay aboard, he wouldn't get much work 
out of them, and couldn't rely on them in a 
difficulty. So he paid them off, and let them go. 



142 WANDERING GHOSTS 

When tliey had gone forward to get their kits, he 
asked me whether I wanted to go, too, and for a 
minute I had a sort of weak feehng that I might 
just as well. But I didn't, and he was a good 
friend to me afterwards. Perhaps he was grateful 
to me for sticking to him. 

When the men went off he didn't come on deck; 
but it was my duty to stand by while they left the 
ship. They owed me a grudge for making them 
work during the last few days, and most of them 
dropped into the boat without so much as a word 
or a look, as sailors will. Jack Benton was the 
last to go over the side, and he stood still a minute 
and looked at me, and his white face twitched. I 
thought he wanted to say something. 

" Take care of yourself. Jack," said I. " So long ! " 

It seemed as if he couldn't speak for two or three 
seconds ; then his words came thick. 

"It wasn't my fault, Mr. Torkeldsen. I swear 
it wasn't my fault ! " 

That was all; and he dropped over the side, 
leaving me to wonder what he meant. 

The captain and I stayed on board, and the ship- 
chandler got a West India boy to cook for us. 

That evening, before turning in, we were stand- 
ing by the rail having a quiet smoke, watching the 
lights of the city, a quarter of a mile off, reflected 
in the still water. There was music of some sort 



MAN OVERBOARD! 143 

ashore, in a sailors' dance-house, I daresay ; and I 
had no doubt that most of the men who had left 
the ship were there, and already full of jiggy-jiggy. 
The music played a lot of sailors' tunes that ran 
into each other, and we could hear the men's voices 
in the chorus now and then. One followed an- 
other, and then it was "Nancy Lee," loud and 
clear, and the men singing " Yo-ho, heave-ho ! " 

" I have no ear for music," said Captain Hack- 
staff, "but it appears to me that's the tune that 
man was whistling the night we lost the man over- 
board. I don't know why it has stuck in my head, 
and of course it's all nonsense; but it seems to me 
that I have heard it all the rest of the trip." 

I didn't say anything to that, but I wondered 
just how much the Old Man had understood. Then 
we turned in, and I slept ten hours without open- 
ing my eyes. 

I stuck to the Helen B. Jackson after that as 
long as I could stand a f ore-and-af ter ; but that 
night when w^e lay in Havana was the last time I 
ever heard " Nancy Lee " on board of her. The 
spare hand had gone ashore with the rest, and he 
never came back, and he took his tune with him; 
but all those things are just as clear in my memory 
as if they had happened yesterday. 

After that I was in deep water for a year or 
more, and after I came home I got my certificate, 



144 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and what with having friends and having saved a 
little money, and having had a small legacy from 
an uncle in Norway, I got the command of a coast- 
wise vessel, with a small share in her. I was at 
home three weeks before going to sea, and Jack 
Benton saw my name in the local papers, and 
wrote to me. 

He said that he had left the sea, and was trying 
farming, and he was going to be married, and he 
asked if I wouldn't come over for that, for it wasn't 
more than forty minutes by train; and he and 
Mamie would be proud to have me at the wedding. 
I remembered how I had heard one brother ask the 
other whether Mamie knew. That meant, whether 
she knew he wanted to marry her, I suppose. She 
had taken her time about it, for it was pretty 
nearly three years then since we had lost Jim Ben- 
ton overboard. 

I had nothing particular to do while we were 
getting ready for sea; nothing to prevent me from 
going over for a day, I mean ; and I thought I'd 
like to see Jack Benton, and have a look at the girl 
he was going to marry. I wondered whether he 
had grown cheerful again, and had got rid of that 
drawn look he had when he told me it wasn't his 
fault. How could it have been his fault, anyhow? 
So I wrote to Jack that I would come down and 
see him married ; and when the day came I took 



MAN OVERBOARD! 145 

the train and got there about ten o'clock in the 
morning. I wish I hadn't. Jack met me at the 
station, and he told me that the wedding was to 
be late in the afternoon, and that they weren't go- 
ing off on any silly wedding trip, he and Mamie, 
but were just going to walk home from her 
mother's house to his cottage. That was good 
enough for him, he said. I looked at him hard for 
a minute after we met. When we had parted I 
had a sort of idea that he might take to drink, but 
he hadn't. He looked very respectable and well- 
to-do in his black coat and high city collar ; but he 
was thinner and bonier than when I had known 
him, and there were lines in his face, and I thought 
his eyes had a queer look in them, half shifty, half 
scared. He needn't have been afraid of me, for I 
didn't mean to talk to his bride about the Helen B. 
Jackson. 

He took me to his cottage first, and I could see 
that he was proud of it. It wasn't above a cable's 
length from high-water mark, but the tide was 
running out, and there was already a broad stretch 
of hard, wet sand on the other side of the beach 
road. Jack's bit of land ran back behind the cot- 
tage about a quarter of a mile, and he said that 
some of the trees we saw were his. The fences 
were neat and well kept, and there was a fair-sized 
barn a little way from the cottage, and I saw some 



146 WANDERING GHOSTS 

nice-looking cattle in the meadows ; but it didn't 
look to me to be much of a farm, and I thought that 
before long Jack would have to leave his wife to 
take care of it, and go to sea again. But I said it 
was a nice farm, so as to seem pleasant, and as I don't 
know much about these things, I daresay it was, all 
the same. I never saw it but that once. Jack 
told me that he and his brother had been born in 
the cottage, and that when their father and mother 
died they leased the land to Mamie's father, but 
had kept the cottage to live in when they came 
home from sea for a spell. It was as neat a little 
place as you would care to see : the floors as clean 
as the decks of a yacht, and the paint as fresh as a 
man-o'-war. Jack always was a good painter. 
There was a nice parlour on the ground floor, and 
Jack had papered it and had hung the walls with 
photographs of ships and foreign ports, and with 
things he had brought home from his voyages: a 
boomerang, a South Sea club, Japanese straw hats, 
and a Gibraltar fan with a bull-fight on it, and all 
that sort of gear. It looked to me as if Miss Mamie 
had taken a hand in arranging it. There was a 
brand-new polished iron Franklin stove set into the 
old fireplace, and a red table-cloth from Alexandria 
embroidered with those outlandish Egyptian letters. 
It was all as bright and homelike as possible, and 
he showed me everything, and was proud of every- 



MAN OVERBOARD! 147 

thing, and I liked him the better for it. But I 
wished that his voice would sound more cheerful, 
as it did when we first sailed in the Helen B., and 
that the drawn look would go out of his face for a 
minute. Jack showed me everything, and took me 
upstairs, and it was all the same : bright and fresh 
and ready for the bride. But on the upper landing 
there was a door that Jack didn't open. When we 
came out of the bedroom I noticed that it was ajar, 
and Jack shut it quickly and turned the key. 

"That lock's no good," he said, half to himself. 
" The door is always open." 

I didn't pay much attention to what he said, 
but as we went down the short stairs, freshly 
painted and varnished so that I was almost afraid 
to step on them, he spoke again. 

" That was his room, sir. I have made a sort 
of store-room of it." 

"You may be wanting it in a year or so," I 
said, wishing to be pleasant. 

"I guess we won't use his room for that," 
Jack answered in a low voice. 

Then he offered me a cigar from a fresh box 
in the parlour, and he took one, and we lit them, 
and went out; and as we opened the front door 
there was Mamie Brewster standing in the path 
as if she were waiting for us. She was a fine- 
looking girl, and I didn't wonder that Jack had 



148 WANDERING GHOSTS 

been willing to wait three years for her. I could 
see that she hadn't been brought up on steam- 
heat and cold storage, but had grown into a 
woman by the sea-shore. She had brown eyes, 
and fine brown hair, and a good figure. 

" This is Captain Torkeldsen," said Jack. 
" This is Miss Brewster, captain ; and she is 
glad to see you." 

"Well, I am," said Miss Mamie, "for Jack 
has often talked to us about you, captain." 

She put out her hand, and took mine and 
shook it heartily, and I suppose I said something, 
but I know I didn't say much. 

The front door of the cottage looked toward 
the sea, and there was a straight path leading 
to the gate on the beach road. There was 
another path from the steps of the cottage that 
turned to the right, broad enough for two 
people to walk easily, and it led straight across 
the fields through gates to a larger house about 
a quarter of a mile away. That was where 
Mamie's mother lived, and the wedding was to 
be there. Jack asked me whether I would like 
to look round the farm before dinner, but I told 
him I didn't know much about farms. Then he 
said he just wanted to look round himself a bit, 
as he mightn't have much more chance that day; 
and he smiled, and Mamie laughed. 



MAN OVERBOARD! 149 

" Show the captain the way to the house, 
Mamie/' he said. " I'll be along in a minute." 

So Mamie and I began to walk along the path, 
and Jack went up toward the barn. 

'^ It was sweet of you to come, captain," Miss 
Mamie began, "for I have always wanted to 
see you." 

" Yes," I said, expecting something more. 

" You see, I always knew them both," she went 
on. " They used to take me out in a dory to catch 
codfish when I was a little girl, and I liked them 
both," she added thoughtfully. " Jack doesn't care 
to talk about his brother now. That's natural. 
But you won't mind telling me how it happened, 
will you ? I should so much like to know." 

Well, I told her about the voyage and what 
happened that night when we fell in with a gale 
of wind, and that it hadn't been anybody's fault, 
for I wasn't going to admit that it was my old 
captain's, if it was. But I didn't tell her anything 
about what happened afterwards. As she didn't 
speak, I just went on talking about the two brothers, 
and how like they had been, and how when poor 
Jim was drowned and Jack was left, I took Jack 
for him. I told her that none of us had ever 
been sure which was which. 

" I wasn't always sure myself," she said, " un- 
less they were together. Leastways, not for a day 



150 WANDERING GHOSTS 

or two after tliey came home from sea. And now 
it seems to me that Jack is more like poor Jim, as 
I remember him, than he ever was, for Jim was 
always more quiet, as if he were thinking/' 

I told her I thought so, too. We passed the 
gate and went into the next field, walking side by 
side. Then she turned her head to look for Jack, 
but he wasn't in sight. I shan't forget what she 
said next. 

" Are you sure now ? " she asked. 

I stood stock-still, and she went on a step, and 
then turned and looked at me. We must have 
looked at each other while you could count five or 
six. 

" I know it's silly," she went on, " it's silly, and 
it's awful, too, and I have got no right to think it, 
but sometimes I can't help it. You see it was 
always Jack I meant to marry." 

" Yes," I said stupidly, " I suppose so." 

She waited a minute, and began walking on 
slowly before she went on again. 

^^I am talking to you as if you were an old 
friend, captain, and I have only known you five 
minutes. It was Jack I meant to marry, but now 
he is so like the other one. 

When a woman gets a wrong idea into her head, 
there is only one way to make her tired of it, and 
that is to agree with her. That's what I did, and 



MAN OVERBOARD I 151 

she went on talking the same way for a Httle 
while, and I kept on agreeing and agreeing until 
she turned round on me. 

" You know you don't believe what you say," 
she said, and laughed. " You know that Jack is 
Jack, right enough ; and it's Jack I am going to 
marry." 

Of course I said so, for I didn't care whether 
she thought me a weak creature or not. I wasn't 
going to say a word that could interfere with her 
happiness, and I didn't intend to go back on Jack 
Benton ; but I remembered what he had said 
when he left the ship in Havana : that it wasn't 
his fault. 

"All the same," Miss Mamie went on, as a 
woman will, without realising what she was say- 
ing, " all the same, I wish I had seen it happen. 
Then I should know.'* 

Next minute she knew that she didn't mean 
that, and was afraid that I would think her heart- 
less, and began to explain that she would really 
rather have died herself than have seen poor Jim 
go overboard. Women haven't got much sense, 
anyhow. All the same, I wondered how she could 
marry Jack if she had a doubt that he might be 
Jim after all. I suppose she had really got used 
to him since he had given up the sea and had 
stayed ashore, and she cared for him. 



152 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Before long we heard Jack coming up behind 
us, for we had walked very slowly to wait for 
him. 

" Promise not to tell anybody what I said, 
captain," said Mamie, as girls do as soon as they 
have told their secrets. 

Anyhow, I know I never did tell any one but 
you. This is the first time I have talked of all 
that, the first time since I took the train from 
that place. I am not going to tell you all about 
the day. Miss Mamie introduced me to her 
mother, who was a quiet, hard-faced old New 
England farmer's widow, and to her cousins and 
relations ; and there were plenty of them, too, at 
dinner, and there was the parson besides. He was 
what they call a Hard-shell Baptist in those parts, 
with a long, shaven upper lip and a whacking 
appetite, and a sort of superior look, as if he didn't 
expect to see many of us hereafter — the way a 
New York pilot looks round, and orders things 
about when he boards an Itahan cargo-dragger, 
as if the ship weren't up to much anyway, though 
it was his business to see that she didn't get 
aground. That's the way a good many parsons 
look, I think. He said grace as if he were order- 
ing the men to sheet home the topgallant-sail and 
get the helm up. x\fter dinner we went out on 
the piazza, for it was warm autumn weather; and 



MAN OVERBOARD! 153 

the young folks went off in pairs along the beach 
road, and the tide nad turned and was beginning 
to come in. The morning had been clear and fine, 
but by four o'clock it began to look like a fog, and 
the damp came up out of the sea and settled on 
everything. Jack said he'd go down to his cot- 
tage and have a last look, for the wedding was to 
be at five o'clock, or soon after, and he wanted to 
light the lights, so as to have things look cheer- 
ful. 

" I will just take a last look," he said again, as we 
reached the house. We went in, and he offered me 
another cigar, and I lit it and sat down in the par- 
lour. I could hear him moving about, first in the 
kitchen and then upstairs, and then I heard him in 
the kitchen again ; and then before I knew anything 
I heard somebody moving upstairs again. I knew he 
couldn't have got up those stairs as quick as that. 
He came into the parlour, and he took a cigar him- 
self, and while he was lighting it I heard those steps 
again overhead. His hand shook, and he dropped 
the match. 

" Have you got in somebody to help ? " I 
asked. 

" No," Jack answered sharply, and struck 
another match. 

" There's somebody upstairs. Jack," I said. 
" Don't you hear footsteps ? " 



154 WANDERING, GHOSTS 

" It's the wind, captain," Jack answered ; but 
I could see he was trembling. 

" That isn't any wind, Jack," I said ; " it's 
still and foggy. I'm sure there's somebody up- 
stairs." 

" If you are so sure of it, you'd better go and 
see for yourself, captain," Jack answered, almost 
angrily. 

He was angry because he was frightened. I 
left him before the fireplace, and went upstairs. 
There was no power on earth that could make 
me believe I hadn't heard a man's footsteps over- 
head. I knew there was somebody there. But 
there wasn't. I went into the bedroom, and it 
was all quiet, and the evening light was stream- 
ing in, reddish through the foggy air ; and I 
went out on the landing and looked in the little 
back room that was meant for a servant-girl or 
a child. And as I came back again I saw that 
the door of the other room was wide open, though 
I knew Jack had locked it. He had said the 
lock was no good. I looked in. It was a room 
as big as the bedroom, but almost dark, for it 
had shutters, and they were closed. There was 
a musty smell, as of old gear, and I could make 
out that the floor was littered with sea-chests, 
and that there were oilskins and such stuff piled 
on the bed. But I still believed that there was 



J 



MAN OVERBOARD! 155 

somebody upstairs, and I went in and struck a 
match and looked round. I could see the four 
walls and the shabby old paper, an iron bed 
and a cracked looking-glass, and the stuff on the 
floor. But there was nobody there. So I put 
out the match, and came out and shut the door 
and turned the key. Now, what I am telling 
you is the truth. When I had turned the key, 
I heard footsteps walking away from the door 
inside the room. Then I felt queer for a minute, 
and when I went downstairs I looked behind 
me, as the men at the wheel used to look behind 
them on board the Helen B. 

Jack was already outside on the steps, smoking. 
I have an idea that he didn't like to stay inside 
alone. 

" Well ? " he asked, trying to seem careless. 

" I didn't find anybody," I answered, " but I 
heard somebody moving about." 

" I told you it was the wind," said Jack con- 
temptuously. " I ought to know, for I live here, 
and I hear it often." 

There was nothing to be said to that, so we 
began to walk down toward the beach. Jack 
said there wasn't any hurry, as it would take 
Miss Mamie some time to dress for the wedding. 
So we strolled along, and the sun was setting 
through the fog, and the tide was coming in. 



156 WANDERING GHOSTS 

I knew the moon was full, and that when she 
rose the fog would roll away from the land, as 
it does sometimes. I felt that Jack didn't like 
my having heard that noise, so I talked of other 
things, and asked him about his prospects, and 
before long we were chatting as pleasantly as 
possible. 

I haven't been at many weddings in my life, 
and I don't suppose you have, but that one 
seemed to me to be all right until it was pretty 
near over ; and then, I don't know whether it 
was part of the ceremony or not, but Jack put 
out his hand and took Mamie's and held it a 
minute, and looked at her, while the parson was 
still speaking. 

Mamie turned as white as a sheet and screamed. 
It wasn't a loud scream, but just a sort of stifled 
little shriek, as if she were half frightened to 
death ; and the parson stopped, and asked her 
what was the matter, and the family gathered 
round. 

"Your hand's like ice," said Mamie to Jack, 
" and it's all wet ! " 

She kept looking at it, as she got hold of herself 
again. 

" It don't feel cold to me," said Jack, and he 
held the back of his hand against his cheek. 
" Try it again." 



MAN OVERBOARD! 157 

Mamie held out hers, and touched the back 
of his hand, timidly at first, and then took hold 
of it. 

" Why, that's funny," she said. 

" She's been as nervous as a witch all day/' said 
Mrs. Brewster severely. 

" It is natural," said the parson, " that young 
Mrs. Benton should experience a little agitation 
at such a moment." 

Most of the bride's relations lived at a distance, 
and were busy people, so it had been arranged 
that the dinner we'd had in the middle of the 
day was to take the place of a dinner after- 
wards, and that we should just have a bite after 
the wedding was over, and then that everybody 
should go home, and the young couple would 
walk down to the cottage by themselves. When 
I looked out I could see the light burning brightly 
in Jack's cottage, a quarter of a mile away. I 
said I didn't think I could get any train to take 
me back before half-past nine, but Mrs. Brewster 
begged me to stay until it was time, as she said 
her daughter would want to take off her wedding 
dress before she went home ; for she had put 
on something white with a wreath that was very 
pretty, and she couldn't walk home like that, 
could she ? 

So when we had all had a little supper the party 



158 WANDERING GHOSTS 

began to break up, and when they were all gone 
Mrs. Brewster and Mamie went upstairs, and Jack 
and I went out on the piazza to have a smoke, as 
the old lady didn't like tobacco in the house. 

The full moon had risen now, and it was behind 
me as I looked down toward Jack's cottage, so 
that everything was clear and white, and there 
was only the light burning in the window. The 
fog had rolled down to the water's edge, and a 
little beyond, for the tide was high, or nearly, and 
was lapping up over the last reach of sand within 
fifty feet of the beach road. 

Jack didn't say much as we sat smoking, but he 
thanked me for coming to his wedding, and I told 
him I hoped he would be happy, and so I did. I 
daresay both of us were thinking of those footsteps 
upstairs, just then, and that the house wouldn't 
seem so lonely with a woman in it. By and by 
we heard Mamie's voice talking to her mother on 
the stairs, and in a minute she was ready to go. 
She had put on again the dress she had worn in 
the morning. 

Well, they were ready to go now. It was all 
very quiet after the day's excitement, and I knew 
they would like to walk down that path alone now 
that they were man and wife at last. I bade them 
good-night, although Jack made a show of press- 
ing me to go with them by the path as far as the 



MAN OVERBOARD! 159 

cottage, instead of going to the station by the 
beach road. It was all very quiet, anr it seemed 
to me a sensible way of getting married and when 
Mamie kissed her mother good-night, I just looked 
the other way, and knocked my ashes over the 
rail of the piazza. So they started down the 
straight path to Jack's cottage, and I waited a 
minute with Mrs. Brewster, looking after them, 
before taking my hat to go. They walked side 
by side, a little shyly at first, and then I saw Jack 
put his arm round her waist. As I looked he 
was on her left and I saw the outline of the two 
figures very distinctly against the moonlight on 
the path ; and the shadow on Mamie's right was 
broad and black as ink, and it moved along, 
lengthening and shortening with the unevenness of 
the ground beside the path. 

I thanked Mrs. Brewster, and bade her good- 
night ; and though she was a hard New England 
woman, her voice trembled a little as she answered, 
but being a sensible person, she went in and shut 
the door behind her as I stepped out on the path. 
I looked after the couple in the distance a last 
time, meaning to go down to the road, so as not 
to overtake them ; but when I had made a few 
steps I stopped and looked again, for I knew I 
had seen something queer, though I had only 
realised it afterwards. I looked again, and it was 



160 WANDERING GHOSTS 

plain enough now ; and I stood stock-stilly staring 
at what I saw. Mamie was walking between two 
men. The second man was just the same height 
as Jack, both being about a half a head taller than 
she ; Jack on her left in his black tail-coat and 
round hat, and the other man on her right — well, 
he was a sailor-man in wet oilskins. I could see 
the moonlight shining on the water that ran down 
him, and on the little puddle that had settled 
where the flap of his sou'wester was turned up be- 
hind : and one of his wet, shiny arms was round 
Mamie's waist, just above Jack's. I was fast to 
the spot where I stood, and for a minute I thought 
I was crazy. We'd had nothing but some cider 
for dinner, and tea in the evening, otherwise I'd 
have thought something had got into my head, 
though I was never drunk in my life. It was 
more like a bad dream after that. 

I was glad Mrs. Brewster had gone in. As for 
me, I couldn't help following the three, in a sort of 
wonder to see what would happen, to see whether 
the sailor-man in his wet togs would just melt away 
into the moonshine. But he didn't. 

I moved slowly, and I remembered afterwards 
that I walked on the grass, instead of on the path, 
as if I were afraid they might hear me coming. I 
suppose it all happened in less than five minutes 
after that, but it seemed as if it must have taken 



MAN OVERBOARD! 161 

an hour. Neither Jack nor Mamie seemed to no- 
tice the sailor. She didn't seem to know that his 
wet arm was round her, and little by little they 
got near the cottage, and I wasn't a hundred yards 
from them when they reached the door. Some- 
thing made me stand still then. Perhaps it was 
fright, for I saw everything that happened just as 
I see you now. 

Mamie set her foot on the step to go up, and as 
she went forward, I saw the sailor slowly lock his 
arm in Jack's, and Jack didn't move to go up. 
Then Mamie turned round on the step, and they 
all three stood that way for a second or two. She 
cried out then — I heard a man cry like that once^ 
when his arm was taken off by a steam-crane — 
and she fell back in a heap on the little piazza. 

I tried to jump forward, but I couldn't move, 
and I felt my hair rising under my hat. The sailor 
turned slowly where he stood, and swung Jack 
round by the arm steadily and easily, and began to 
walk him down the pathway from the house. He 
walked him straight down that path, as steadily as 
Fate ; and all the time I saw the moonlight shin- 
ing on his wet oilskins. He walked him through 
the gate, and across the beach road, and out upon 
the wet sand, where the tide was high. Then I 
got my breath with a gulp, and ran for them across 
the grass, and vaulted over the fence, and stumbled 



162 WANDERING GHOSTS 

across the road. But when I felt the sand under 
my feet, the two were at the water's edge ; and 
when I reached the water they were far out, and up 
to their waists ; and I saw that Jack Benton's head 
had fallen forward on his breast, and his free arm 
hung limp beside him, while his dead brother stead- 
ily marched him to his death. The moonlight was 
on the dark water, but the fog-bank was white be- 
yond, and I saw them against it ; and they went 
slowly and steadily down. The water was up to 
their armpits, and then up to their shoulders, and 
then I saw it rise up to the black rim of Jack's hat. 
But they never wavered ; and the two heads went 
straight on, straight on, till they were under, and 
there was just a ripple in the moonlight where 
Jack had been. 

It has been on my mind to tell you that 
story, whenever I got a chance. You have 
known me, man and boy, a good many years; 
and I thought I would like to hear your opinion. 
Yes, that's what I always thought. It wasn't 
Jim that went overboard ; it was Jack, and 
Jim just let him go when he might have saved 
him ; and then Jim passed himself off for Jack 
with us, and with the girl. If that's what 
happened, he got what he deserved. People 
said the next day that Mamie found it out as 
they reached the house, and that her husband 



MAN OVERBOARD! 163 

just walked out into tlie sea, and drowned him- 
self; and they would have blamed me for not 
stopping him if they'd known that I was there. 
But I never told what I had seen, for they wouldn't 
have believed me. I just let them think I had 
come too late. 

When I reached the cottage and lifted Mamie 
up, she was raving mad. She got better after- 
wards, but she was never right in her head 
again. 

Oh, you want to know if they found Jack's 
body ? I don't know whether it was his, but 
I read in a paper at a Southern port where I 
was with my new ship that two dead bodies 
had come ashore in a gale down East, in pretty 
bad shape. They were locked together, and one 
was a skeleton in oilskins. 



FOE THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 

We had dined at sunset on the broad roof of 
the old tower, because it was cooler there dur- 
ing the great heat of summer. Besides, the 
little kitchen was built at one corner of the 
great square platform, which made it more con- 
venient than if the dishes had to be carried 
down the steep stone steps, broken in places 
and everywhere worn wdth age. The tower was 
one of those built all down the west coast of 
Calabria by the Emperor Charles V. early in the 
sixteenth century, to keep off the Barbary pirates, 
when the unbelievers were allied with Francis I. 
against the Emperor and the Church. They have 
gone to ruin, a few still stand intact, and mine is 
one of the largest. How it came into my pos- 
session ten years ago, and why I spend a part 
of each year in it, are matters which do not con- 
cern this tale. The tower stands in one of the 
loneliest spots in Southern Italy, at the extremity 
of a curving rocky promontory, which forms a 
small but safe natural harbour at the southern 
extremity of the Gulf of Policastro, and just 
north of Cape Scalea, the birthplace of Judas 

167 



168 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Iscariot, according to the old local legend. The 
tower stands alone on this hooked spur of the 
rock, and there is not a house to be seen within 
three miles of it. When I go there I take a couple 
of sailors, one of whom is a fair cook, and when 
I am away it is in charge of a gnome-like little 
being who was once a miner and who attached 
himself to me long ago. 

My friend, who sometimes visits me in my 
summer solitude, is an artist by profession, a 
Scandinavian by birth, and a cosmopolitan by 
force of circumstances. We had dined at sun- 
set; the sunset glow had reddened and faded 
again, and the evening purple steeped the vast 
chain of the mountains that embrace the deep 
gulf to eastward and rear themselves higher and 
higher toward the south. It was hot, and we sat 
at the landward corner of the platform, waiting 
for the night breeze to come down from the lower 
hills. The colour sank out of the air, there was a 
little interval of deep-grey twilight, and a lamp 
sent a yellow streak from the open door of the 
kitchen, where the men were getting their supper. 

Then the moon rose suddenly above the crest 
of the promontory, flooding the platform and 
lighting up every little spur of rock and knoll 
of grass below us, down to the edge of the 
motionless water. My friend lighted his pipe 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 169 

and sat looking at a spot on the hillside. I knew 
that he was looking at it, and for a long time past 
I had wondered whether he would ever see anything 
there that would fix his attention. I knew that spot 
well. It was clear that he was interested at last, 
though it was a long time before he spoke. Like 
most painters, he trusts to his own eyesight, as a 
lion trusts his strength and a stag his speed, and he 
is always disturbed when he cannot reconcile what 
he sees with what he believes that he ought to see. 

" It's strange," he said. " Do you see that little 
mound just on this side of the boulder ? " 

" Yes," I said, and I guessed what was coming. 

" It looks like a grave," observed Holger. 

'^ Very true. It does look like a grave." 

" Yes," continued my friend, his eyes still fixed 
on the spot. " But the strange thing is that I see 
the body lying on the top of it. Of course," con- 
tinued Holger, turning his head on one side as 
artists do, ^' it must be an effect of light. In the 
first place, it is not a grave at all. Secondly, if it 
were, the body would be inside and not outside. 
Therefore, it's an effect of the moonlight. Don't 
you see it ? " 

" Perfectly ; I always see it on moonlight 
nights." 

"It doesn't seem to interest you much," said 
Holger. 



170 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" On the contrary, it does interest me, thongh I 
am used to it. You're not so far wrong, either. 
The mound is really a grave." 

" Nonsense ! " cried Holger, incredulously. " I 
suppose you'll tell me what I see lying on it is 
really a corpse ! " 

" No," I answered, " it's not. I know, because I 
have taken the trouble to go down and see." 

" Then what is it ? " asked Holger. 

" It's nothing." 

" You mean that it's an effect of light, I sup- 
pose ? " 

" Perhaps it is. But the inexplicable part of the 
matter is that it makes no difference whether the 
moon is rising or setting, or waxing or waning. 
If there's any moonlight at all, from east or west 
or overhead, so long as it shines on the grave you 
can see the outline of the body on top." 

Holger stirred up his pipe with the point of his 
knife, and then used his finger for a stopper. When 
the tobacco burned well he rose from his chair. 

" If you don't mind," he said, " I'll go down and 
take a look at it." 

He left me, crossed the roof, and disappeared 
down the dark steps. I did not move, but sat 
lookino; down until he came out of the tower below. 
I heard him humming an old Danish song as he 
crossed the open space in the bright moonlight, 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 171 

going straight to the mysterious mound. When he 
was ten paces from it, Holger stopped short, made 
two steps forward, and then three or four back- 
ward, and then stopped again. I know what that 
meant. He had reached the spot where the Thing 
ceased to be visible — where, as he would have 
said, the effect of light changed. 

Then he went on till he reached the mound and 
stood upon it. I could see the Thing still, but it 
was no longer lying down; it was on its knees 
now, winding its white arms round Holger' s body 
and looking up into his face. A cool breeze stirred 
my hair at that moment, as the night wind began 
to come down from the hills, but it felt like a 
breath from another world. 

The Thing seemed to be trying to climb to its feet, 
helping itself up by Holger's body while he stood 
upright, quite unconscious of it and apparently 
looking toward the tower, which is very picturesque 
when the moonlight falls upon it on that side. 

"Come along!" I shouted. "Don't stay there 
all night ! " 

It seemed to me that he moved reluctantly as he 
stepped from the mound, or else with difficulty. 
That was it. The Thing's arms were still round 
his waist, but its feet could not leave the grave. 
As he came slowly forward it was drawn and 
lengthened like a wreath of mist, thin and white, 



172 WANDERING GHOSTS 

till I saw distinctly that Holger shook himself, as 
a man does who feels a chill. At the same instant 
a little wail of pain came to me on the breeze — it 
might have been the cry of the small owl that 
lives among the rocks — and the misty presence 
floated swiftly back from Holger' s advancing figure 
and lay once more at its length upon the mound. 

Again I felt the cool breeze in my hair, and this 
time an icy thrill of dread ran down my spine. 
I remembered very well that I had once gone do^vn 
there alone in the moonlight ; that presently, being 
near, I had seen nothing ; that, like Holger, I had 
gone and had stood upon the mound ; and I re- 
membered how, when I came back, sure that there 
was nothing there, I had felt the sudden conviction 
that there was something after all if I would only 
look behind me. I remembered the strong tempta- 
tion to look back, a temptation I had resisted as 
unworthy of a man of sense, until, to get rid of it, 
I had shaken myself just as Holger did. 

And now I knew that those white, misty arms 
had been round me too ; I knew it in a flash, and 
I shuddered as I remembered that I had heard the 
night owl then too. But it had not been the 
night owl. It was the cry of the Thing. 

I refilled my pipe and poured out a cup of 
strong southern wine ; in less than a minute Hol- 
ger was seated beside me again. 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 173 

" Of course there's nothing there/ ^ he said, " but 
it's creepy, all the same. Do you know, when 
I was coming back I was so sure that there was 
something behind me that I wanted to turn round 
and look ? It was an effort not to." 

He laughed a little, knocked the ashes out of his 
pipe, and poured himself out some wine. For a while 
neither of us spoke, and the moon rose higher, and we 
both looked at the Thing that lay on the mound. 

"You might make a story about that," said 
Holger after a long time. 

"There is one," I answered. "If you're not 

sleepy, I'll tell it to you." 

" Go ahead," said Holger, who likes stories- 
• ••••• ^ 

Old Alario was dying up there in the village 
behind the hill. You remember him, I have no 
doubt. They say that he made his money by 
selling sham jewellery in South America, and 
escaped with his gains when he was found out. 
Like all those fellows, if they bring anything 
back with them^ he at once set to work to en- 
large his house, and as there are no masons here, 
he sent all the way to Paola for two workmen. 
They were a rough-looking pair of scoundrels 
— a Neapolitan who had lost one eye and a 
Sicilian with an old scar half an inch deep across 
his left cheek. I often saw them, for on Sun- 



174 WANDERING GHOSTS 

days they used to come down here and fish off 
the rocks. When Alario caught the fever that 
killed him the masons were still at work. As 
he had agreed that part of their pay should be 
their board and lodging, he made them sleep 
in the house. His wife was dead, and he had 
an only son called Angelo, who was a much 
better sort than himself. Angelo was to marry 
the daughter of the richest man in the village, 
and, strange to say, though the marriage was 
arranged by their parents, the young people were 
said to be in love with each other. 

For that matter, the whole village was in love 
with Angelo, and among the rest a wild, good- 
looking creature called Cristina, who was more 
like a gipsy than any girl I ever saw about 
here. She had very red lips and very black 
eyes, she was built like a greyhound, and had 
the tongue of the devil. But Angelo did not 
care a straw for her. He was rather a simple- 
minded fellow, quite different from his old scoun- 
drel of a father, and under what I should call 
normal circumstances I really believe that he 
would never have looked at any girl except the 
nice plump little creature, with a fat dowry, whom 
his father meant him to marry. But things turned 
up which were neither normal nor natural. 

On the other hand, a very handsome young 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 175 

shepherd from the hills above Maratea was in 
love with Cristina, who seems to have been quite 
indifferent to him. Cristina had no regular means 
of subsistence, but she was a good girl and will- 
ing to do any work or go on errands to any dis- 
tance for the sake of a loaf of bread or a mess 
of beans, and permission to sleep under cover. 
She was especially glad when she could get some- 
thing to do about the house of Angelo's father. 
There is no doctor in the village, and when the 
neighbours saw that old Alario was dying they 
sent Cristina to Scalea to fetch one. That was 
late in the afternoon, and if they had waited 
so long, it was because the dying miser refused 
to allow any such extravagance while he was 
able to speak. But while Cristina was gone mat- 
ters grew rapidly worse, the priest was brought 
to the bedside, and when he had done what he 
could he gave it as his opinion to the bystanders 
that the old man was dead^ and left the house. 

You know these people. They have a physical 
horror of death. Until the priest spoke, the room 
had been full of people. The words were hardly 
out of his mouth before it was empty. It was 
night now. They hurried down the dark steps 
and out into the street. 

Angelo, as I have said, was away, Cristina 
had not come back — the simple woman-servant 



176 WANDERING GHOSTS 

who had nursed the sick man fled with the rest, 
and the body was left alone m the flickering light 
of the earthen oil lamp. 

Five minutes later two men looked in cau- 
tiously and crept forward toward the bed. They 
were the one-eyed Neapolitan mason and his Si- 
cilian companion. They knew what they wanted. 
In a moment they had dragged from under the 
bed a small but heavy iron-bound box, and long 
before any one thought of coming back to the 
dead man they had left the house and the vil- 
lage under cover of the darkness. It was easy 
enough, for Alario's house is the last toward the 
gorge which leads down here, and the thieves 
merely went out by the back door, got over the 
stone wall, and had nothing to risk after that 
except the possibility of meeting some belated 
countryman, which was very small indeed, since 
few of the people use that path. They had a 
mattock and shovel, and they made their way 
here without accident. 

I am telling you this story as it must have hap- 
pened, for, of course, there were no witnesses to 
this part of it. The men brought the box down 
by the gorge, intending to bury it until they should 
be able to come back and take it away in a boat. 
They must have been clever enough to guess that 
some of the money would be in paper notes, for 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 177 

they would otherwise have buried it on the beach 
in the wet sand, where it would have been much 
safer. But the paper would have rotted if they 
had been obliged to leave it there long, so they dug 
their hole down there, close to that boulder. Yes, 
just where the mound is now. 

Cristina did not find the doctor in Scalea, for he 
had been sent for from a place up the valley, half- 
way to San Domenico. If she had found him, he 
would have come on his mule by the upper road, 
which is smoother but much longer. But Cristina 
took the short cut by the rocks, which passes about 
fifty feet above the mound, and goes round that 
corner. The men were digging when she passed, 
and she heard them at work. It would not have 
been like her to go by without finding out what 
the noise was, for she was never afraid of anything 
in her life, and, besides, the fishermen sometimes 
come ashore here at night to get a stone for an 
anchor or to gather sticks to make a little fire. 
The night was dark, and Cristina probably came 
close to the two men before she could see what 
they were doing. She knew them, of course, and 
they knew her, and understood instantly that they 
were in her power. There was only one thing to 
be done for their safety, and they did it. They 
knocked her on the head, they dug the hole deep, 
and they buried her quickly with the iron-bound 

N 



178 WANDERING GHOSTS 

chest. They must have understood that their only 
chance of escaping suspicion lay in getting back to 
the village before their absence was noticed, for 
they returned immediately, and were found half an 
hour later gossiping quietly with the man who was 
making Alario's coffin. He was a crony of theirs, 
and had been working at the repairs in the old man's 
house. So far as I have been able to make out, 
the only persons who were supposed to know where 
Alario kept his treasure were Angelo and the one 
woman-servant I have mentioned. Angelo was 
away ; it was the woman who discovered the theft. 
It is easy enough to understand why no one else 
knew where the money was. The old man kept 
his door locked and the key in his pocket when he 
was out, and did not let the woman enter to clean 
the place unless he was there himself. The whole 
village knew that he had money somewhere, how- 
ever, and the masons had probably discovered the 
whereabouts of the chest by climbing in at the 
window in his absence. If the old man had not 
been delirious until he lost consciousness, he would 
have been in frightful agony of mind for his riches. 
The faithful woman -servant forgot their existence 
onlv for a few moments when she fled with the 
rest, overcome by the horror of death. Twenty 
minutes had not passed before she returned with 
the two hideous old hags who are always called in 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 179 

to prepare the dead for burial. Even then she 
had not at first the courage to go near the bed 
with them, but she made a pretence of dropping 
something, went down on her knees as if to find it, 
and looked under the bedstead. The walls of the 
room were newly whitewashed down to the floor, 
and she saw at a glance that the chest was gone. 
It had been there in the afternoon, it had therefore 
been stolen in the short interval since she had left 
the room. 

There are no carabineers stationed in the village ; 
there is not so much as a municipal watchman, for 
there is no municipality. There never was such a 
place, I believe. Scalea is supposed to look after 
it in some mysterious way, and it takes a couple of 
hours to get anybody from there. As the old 
woman had lived in the village all her life, it did 
not even occur to her to apply to any civil authority 
for help. She simply set up a howl and ran through 
the village in the dark, screaming out that her 
dead master's house had been robbed. Many of 
the people looked out, but at first no one seemed 
inclined to help her. Most of them, judging her 
by themselves, whispered to each other that she 
had probably stolen the money herself. The first 
man to move was the father of the girl whom 
Angelo was to marry; having collected his house- 
hold, all of whom felt a personal interest in the 



180 WANDERING GHOSTS 

wealth which was to have come into the family, he 
declared it to be his opinion that the chest had 
been stolen by the two journeyman masons who 
lodged in the house. He headed a search for 
them, which naturally began in Alario's house and 
ended in the carpenter's workshop, where the 
thieves were found discussing a measure of wine 
with the carpenter over the half-finished coffin, by 
the light of one earthen lamp filled with oil and 
tallow. The search party at once accused the de- 
linquents of the crime, and threatened to lock 
them up in the cellar till the carabineers could be 
fetched from Scalea. The two men looked at each 
other for one moment, and then without the slight- 
est hesitation they put out the single light, seized 
the unfinished coffin between them, and using it as 
a sort of battering ram, dashed upon their assail- 
ants in the dark. In a few moments they were 
beyond pursuit. 

That is the end of the first part of the story. 
The treasure had disappeared, and as no trace of 
it could be found the people naturally supposed 
that the thieves had succeeded in carrying it off. 
The old man was buried, and when Angelo came 
back at last he had to borrow money to pay for 
the miserable funeral, and had some difficulty in 
doing so. He hardly needed to be told that in 
losing his inheritance he had lost his bride. In 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 181 

this part of the world marriages are made on 
strictly business principles, and if the promised 
cash is not forthcoming on the appointed day the 
bride or the bridegroom whose parents have failed 
to produce it ma^y as well take themselves off, for 
there will be no wedding. Poor Angelo knew that 
well enough. His father had been possessed of 
hardly any lai^d, and now that the hard cash 
which he had brought from South America was 
gone, there was nothing left but debts for the 
building materials that were to have been used for 
enlarging and improving the old house. Angelo 
was beggared, and the nice plump little creature 
who was to have been his turned up her nose at 
him in the most approved fashion. As for Cristina, 
it was several days before she was missed, for no 
one remembered that she had been sent to Scalea 
for the doctor, who had never come. She often 
disappeared in the same way for days together, 
when she could find a little work here and there at 
the distant farms among the hills. But when she 
did not come back at all, people began to wonder, 
and at last made up their minds that she had con- 
nived with the masons and had escaped with them. 
• •••••• 

I paused and emptied my glass. 
" That sort of thing could not happen anyiohere 
else,'' observed Holger, filling his everlasting pipe 



182 WANDERING GHOSTS 

again. ^' It is wonderful what a natural charm 
there is about murder and sudden death in a roman- 
tic country like this. Deeds that would he simply 
brutal and dAsgusting a7iywhere else become dramatic 
and mysterious because this is Italy and we are 
living in a genuine tower of Charles V. built agaiiist 
genuine Barbary pirates.'' 

" There's something in that," I admitted. Holger 
is the most romantic man in the loorld inside of 
himself but he ahvays thinks it necessary to explain 
why he feels anything. 

''I suppose they found the poor girl's body with 
the box/' he said presently. 

" As it seems to interest you," I answered, " I'll 
tell you the rest of the story." 

The moon had risen high by this time; the out- 
line of the Tiling on the mound was clearer to our 

eyes than before. 

• •••••• 

The village very soon settled down to its small, 
dull life. No one missed old Alario, who had been 
away so much on his voyages to South America 
that he had never been a familiar figure in his 
native place. Angelo lived in the half -finished 
house, and because he had no money to pay the 
old woman-servant she would not stay with him, 
but once in a long time she would come and wash 
a shirt for him for old acquaintance' sake. Be- 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 183 

sides the house, he had inherited a small patch of 
ground at some distance from the village ; he tried 
to cultivate it, but he had no heart in the work, 
for he knew he could never pay the taxes on it 
and on the house, which would certainly be con- 
fiscated by the Government, or seized for the debt 
of the building material, which the man who had 
supplied it refused to take back. 

Angelo was very unhappy. So long as his 
father had been alive and rich, every girl in the 
village had been in love with him ; but that was 
all changed now. It had been pleasant to be ad- 
mired and courted, and invited to drink wine by 
fathers who had girls to marry. It was hard to 
be stared at coldly, and sometimes laughed at 
because he had been robbed of his inheritance. 
He cooked his miserable meals for himself, and 
from being sad became melancholy and morose. 

At twilight, when the day's work was done, 
instead of hanging about in the open space before 
the church with young fellows of his own age, he 
took to wandering in lonely places on the outskirts 
of the village till it was quite dark. Then he 
slunk home and went to bed to save the expense 
of a light. But in those lonely twilight hours he 
began to have strange waking dreams. He was 
not always alone, for often when he sat on the 
stump of a tree, where the narrow path turns 



184 WANDERING GHOSTS 

down the gorge, he was sure that a woman came 
up noiselessly over the rough stones, as if her feet 
were bare ; and she stood under a clump of chestnut 
trees only half a dozen yards down the path, and 
beckoned to him without speaking. Though she 
was in the shadow he knew that her lips were red, 
and that when they parted a little and smiled at 
him she showed two small sharp teeth. He knew 
this at first rather than saw it, and he knew that 
it was Cristina, and that she was dead. Yet he 
was not afraid ; he only wondered whether it was 
a dream, for he thought that if he had been awake 
he should have been frightened. 

Besides, the dead woman had red lips, and that 
could only happen in a dream. Whenever he went 
near the gorge after sunset she was already there 
waiting for him, or else she very soon appeared, 
and he began to be sure that she came a little 
nearer to him every day. At first he had only 
been sure of her blood-red mouth, but now each 
feature grew distinct, and the pale face looked at 
him with deep and hungry eyes. 

It was the eyes that grew dim. Little by little 
he came to know that some day the dream would 
not end when he turned away to go home, but 
would lead him down the gorge out of which 
the vision rose. She was nearer now when she 
beckoned to him. Her cheeks were not livid like 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 185 

those of the dead, but pale with starvation, with 
the furious and unappeased physical hunger of her 
eyes that devoured him. They feasted on his soul 
and cast a spell over him, and at last they were 
close to his own and held him. He could not tell 
whether her breath was as hot as fire or as cold 
as ice ; he could not tell whether her red lips 
burned his or froze them, or whether her five 
fingers on his wrists seared scorching scars or bit 
his flesh like frost ; he could not tell whether he 
was awake or asleep, whether she was alive or 
dead, but he knew that she loved him, she alone 
of all creatures, earthly or unearthly, and her spell 
had power over him. 

When the moon rose high that night the shadow 
of that Thing was not alone down there upon the 
mound. 

Angelo awoke in the cool dawn, drenched with 
dew and chilled through flesh, and blood, and bone. 
He opened his eyes to the faint grey light, and 
saw the stars still shining overhead. He was very 
weak, and his heart was beating so slowly that 
he was almost like a man fainting. Slowly he 
turned his head on the mound, as on a pillow, but 
the other face was not there. Fear seized him 
suddenly, a fear unspeakable and unknown; he 
sprang to his feet and fled up the gorge, and he 
never looked behind him until he reached the 



186 WANDERING GHOSTS 

door of the house on the outskirts of the vil- 
lage. Drearily he went to his work that day, and 
wearily the hours dragged themselves after the 
sun, till at last he touched the sea and sank, and 
the great sharp hills above Maratea turned purple 
against the dove-coloured eastern sky. 

Angelo shouldered his heavy hoe and left the 
field. He felt less tired now than in the morning 
when he had begun to work, but he promised 
himself that he would go home without lingering 
by the gorge, and eat the best supper he could 
get himself, and sleep all night in his bed like a 
Christian man. Not again would he be tempted 
down the narrow way by a shadow with red lips 
and icy breath ; not again would he dream that 
dream of terror and delight. He was near the 
village now ; it was half an hour since the sun 
had set, and the cracked church bell sent little 
discordant echoes across the rocks and ravines to 
tell all good people that the day was done. An- 
gelo stood still a moment where the path forked, 
where it led toward the village on the left, and 
down to the gorge on the right, where a clump 
of chestnut trees overhung the narrow way. He 
stood still a minute, lifting his battered hat from 
his head and gazing at the fast-fading sea west- 
ward, and his lips moved as he silently repeated 
the familiar evening prayer. His lips moved, but 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 187 

the words that followed them in his brain lost 
their meaning and turned into others, and ended 
in a name that he spoke aloud — Cristina ! With 
the name, the tension of his will relaxed suddenly, 
reality went out and the dream took him again, 
and bore him on swiftly and surely like a man 
walking in his sleep, down, down, by the steep 
path in the gathering darkness. And as she 
glided beside him, Cristina whispered strange, 
sweet things in his ear, which somehow, if he 
had been awake, he knew that he could not quite 
have understood ; but now they were the most 
wonderful words he had ever heard in his life. 
And she kissed him also, but not upon his mouth. 
He felt her sharp kisses upon his white throat, 
and he knew that her lips were red. So the wild 
dream sped on through twilight and darkness and 
moonrise, and all the glory of the summer's night. 
But in the chilly dawn he lay as one half dead 
upon the mound down there, recalling and not 
recalling, drained of his blood, yet strangely long- 
ing to give those red lips more. Then came the 
fear, the awful nameless panic, the mortal horror 
that guards the confines of the world we see not, 
neither know of as we know of other things, but 
which we feel when its icy chill freezes our bones 
and stirs our hair with the touch of a ghostly 
hand. Once more Angelo sprang from the mound 



188 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and fled up the gorge in the breaking day, but Lis 
step was less sure this time, and he panted for 
breath as he ran ; and when he came to the bright 
spring of water that rises halfway up the hill- 
side, he dropped upon his knees and hands and 
plunged his whole face in and drank as he had 
never drunk before — for it was the thirst of the 
wounded man who has lain bleeding all night long 
upon the battle-field. 

She had him fast now, and he could not escape 
her, but would come to her every evening at dusk 
until she had drained him of his last drop of blood. 
It was in vain that when the day was done he 
tried to take another turning and to go home by 
a path that did not lead near the gorge. It was 
in vain that he made promises to himself each 
morning at dawn when he climbed the lonely way 
up from the shore to the village. It was all in 
vain, for when the sun sank burning into the sea, 
and the coolness of the evening stole out as from 
a hiding-place to delight the weary world, his feet 
turned toward the old way, and she was waiting 
for him in the shadow under the chestnut trees ; 
and then all happened as before, and she fell to 
kissing his white throat even as she flitted lightly 
down the way, winding one arm about him. And 
as his blood failed, she grew more hungry and 
more thirsty every day, and every day when he 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 189 

awoke in the early dawn it was harder to rouse 
himself to the efcrt of climbing the steep path to 
the village ; and when he went to his work his feet 
dragged painfully, and there was hardly strength 
in his arms to wield the heavy hoe. He scarcely 
spoke to any one now, but the people said he was 
" consuming himself " for love of the girl he was 
to have married when he lost his inheritance ; and 
they laughed heartily at the thought, for this is 
not a very romantic country. At this time, An- 
tonio, the man who stays here to look after the 
tower, returned from a visit to his people, who live 
near Salerno. He had been away all the time 
since before Alario's death and knew nothing of 
what had happened. He has told me that he 
came back late in the afternoon and shut him- 
self up in the tower to eat and sleep, for he was 
very tired. It was past midnight when he awoke, 
and when he looked out the waning moon was 
rising over the shoulder of the hill. He looked 
out toward the mound, and he saw something, and 
he did not sleep again that night. When he went 
out again in the morning it was broad daylight, 
and there was nothing to be seen on the mound 
but loose stones and driven sand. Yet he did not 
go very near it; he went straight up the path to 
the village and directly to the house of the old 
priest. 



190 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" I have seen an evil thing this night," he said ; 
" I have seen how the dead drink the blood of the 
living. And the blood is the life." 

" Tell me what you have seen/' said the priest 
in reply. 

Antonio told him everything he had seen. 

"You must bring your book and your holy 
water to-night," he added. " I will be here before 
sunset to go down with you, and if it pleases your 
reverence to sup with me while we wait, I will 
make ready." 

" I will come," the priest answered, " for I have 
read in old books of these strange beings which 
are neither quick nor dead, and which lie ever 
fresh in their graves, stealing out in the dusk to 
taste life and blood." 

Antonio cannot read, but he was glad to see 
that the priest understood the business ; for, of 
course, the books must have instructed him as to 
the best means of quieting the half-living Thing 
for ever. 

So Antonio went away to his work, which 
consists largely in sitting on the shady side of the 
tower, when he is not perched upon a rock with a 
fishing-line catching nothing. But on that day he 
went twice to look at the mound in the bright 
sunlight, and he searched round and round it for 
some hole through which the being might get in 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 191 

and out J but he found none. When the sun 
began to sink and the air was cooler in the 
shadows, he went up to fetch the old priest, 
carrying a little wicker basket with him ; and in 
this they placed a bottle of holy water, and the 
basin, and sprinkler, and the stole which the 
priest would need ; and they came down and 
waited in the door of the tower till it should be 
dark. But while the light still lingered very grey 
and faint, they saw something moving, just there, 
two figures, a man's that walked, and a woman's 
that flitted beside him, and while her head lay on 
his shoulder she kissed his throat. The priest has 
told me that, too, and that his teeth chattered and 
he grasped Antonio's arm. The vision passed and 
disappeared into the shadow. Then Antonio got 
the leathern flask of strong liquor, which he kept 
for great occasions, and poured such a draught as 
made the old man feel almost young again ; and 
he got the lantern, and his pick and shovel, 
and gave the priest his stole to put on and the 
holy water to carry, and they went out together 
toward the spot where the work was to be done. 
Antonio says that in spite of the rum his own 
knees shook together, and the priest stumbled over 
his Latin. For when they were yet a few yards 
from the mound the flickering light of the lantern 
fell upon Angelo's white face, unconscious as if in 



192 WANDERING GHOSTS 

sleep, and on his upturned throat, over which a 
very thin red line of blood trickled down into 
his collar ; and the flickering light of the lantern 
played upon another face that looked up from the 
feast — upon two deep, dead eyes that saw in spite 
of death — upon parted lips redder than life itself — 
upon two gleaming teeth on which glistened a rosy 
drop. Then the priest, good old man, shut his 
eyes tight and showered holy water before him, and 
his cracked voice rose almost to a scream; and 
then Antonio, who is no coward after all, raised 
his pick in one hand and the lantern in the other, 
as he sprang forward, not knowing what the end 
should be ; and then he swears that he heard a 
woman's cry, and the Thing was gone, and Angelo 
lay alone on the mound unconscious, with the red 
line on his throat and the beads of deathly sweat 
on his cold forehead. They lifted him, half-dead 
as he was, and laid him on the ground close by; 
then Antonio went to work, and the priest helped 
him, though he was old and could not do much ; 
and they dug deep, and at last Antonio, standing 
in the grave, stooped down with his lantern to see 
what he might see. 

His hair used to be dark brown, with grizzled 
streaks about the temples ; in less than a month 
from that day he was as grey as a badger. He 
was a miner when he was young, and most of these 



FOR THE BLOOD IS THE LIFE 193 

fellows have seen ugly sights now and then, when 
accidents have happened, but he had never seen 
what he saw that night — that Thing which is 
neither alive nor dead, that Thing that will abide 
neither above ground nor in the grave. Antonio 
had brought something with him which the priest 
had not noticed. He had made it that afternoon 
— a sharp stake shaped from a piece of tough old 
driftwood. He had it with him now, and he had 
his heavy pick, and he had taken the lantern down 
into the grave. I don't think any power on earth 
could make him speak of what happened then, and 
the old priest was too frightened to look in. He 
says he heard Antonio breathing like a wild beast, 
and moving as if he were fighting with something 
almost as strong as himself ; and he heard an evil 
sound also, with blows, as of something violently 
driven through flesh and bone ; and then the most 
awful sound of all — a woman's shriek, the un- 
earthly scream of a woman neither dead nor alive, 
but buried deep for many days. And he, the poor 
old priest, could only rock himself as he knelt there 
in the sand, crying aloud his prayers and exorcisms 
to drown these dreadful sounds. Then suddenly a 
small iron-bound chest was thrown up and rolled 
over against the old man's knee, and in a moment 
more Antonio was beside him, his face as white as 
tallow in the flickering light of the lantern, shovel- 



194 WANDERING GHOSTS 

ling the sand and pebbles into tbe grave with furious 
haste, and looking over the edge till the pit was 
half full ; and the priest said that there was much 
fresh blood on Antonio's hands and on his clothes. 

/ had come to the end of my story. Holger fin- 
ished his wine and leaned hack in his chair, 

" So Angelo got his own again,'' he said. " Did 
he marry the prim and plump young person to whom 
he had heen hetrothed f " 

" No ; he had been hadly frightened. He went to 
South America, and has not been heard of since.'" 

" And that poor thing's body is there still, I 
suppose," said Holger. "Is it quite dead yet, 
I ivonder f " 

/ wonder, too. But lohether it be dead or alive, I 
should hardly care to see it, even in broad daylight. 
Antonio is as grey as a badger, and he has never 
been quite the same man since that night. 



THE UPPBE BEETH 



THE UPPER BERTH 

CHAPTER I 

Somebody asked for the cigars. We had talked 
long, and the conversation was beginning to lan- 
guish ; the tobacco smoke had got into the heavy 
curtains, the wine had got into those brains which 
were liable to become heavy, and it was already 
perfectly evident that, unless somebody did some- 
thing to rouse our oppressed spirits, the meeting 
would soon come to its natural conclusion, and we, 
the guests, would speedily go home to bed, and 
most certainly to sleep. No one had said anything 
very remarkable ; it may be that no one had any- 
thing very remarkable to say. Jones had given us 
every particular of his last hunting adventure in 
Yorkshire. Mr. Tompkins, of Boston, had explained 
at elaborate length those working principles, by 
the due and careful maintenance of which the 
Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad not only 
extended its territory, increased its departmental 
influence, and transported live stock without 
starving them to death before the day of actual 
delivery, but, also, had for years succeeded in 

197 



198 WANDERING GHOSTS 

deceiving those passengers who bought its tickets 
into the fallacious belief that the corporation afore- 
said was really able to transport human life with- 
out destroying it. Signor Tombola had endeavoured 
to persuade us, by arguments which we took no 
trouble to oppose, that the unity of his country in 
no way resembled the average modern torpedo, 
carefully planned, constructed with all the skill of 
the greatest European arsenals, but, when con- 
structed, destined to be directed by feeble hands ^ 
into a region where it must undoubtedly explode, 
unseen, unfeared, and unheard, into the illimitable 
wastes of political chaos. 

It is unnecessary to go into further details. The 
conversation had assumed proportions which would 
have bored Prometheus on his rock, which would 
have driven Tantalus to distraction, and which 
would have impelled Ixion to seek relaxation in 
the simple but instructive dialogues of Herr Ollen- 
dorff, rather than submit to the greater evil of 
listening to our talk. We had sat at table for 
hours ; we were bored, we were tired, and nobody 
showed signs of moving. 

Somebody called for cigars. We all instinctively 
looked towards the speaker. Brisbane was a man 
of five-and-thirty years of age, and remarkable for 
those gifts which chiefly attract the attention of 
men. He was a strong man. The external pro- 



THE UPPER BERTH 199 

portions of his figure presented nothing extraordi- 
nary to the common eye, though his size was about 
the average. He was a little over six feet in 
height, and moderately broad in the shoulder ; he 
did not appear to be stout, but, on the other hand, 
he was certainly not thin ; his small head, was 
supported by a strong and sinewy neck ; his broad, 
muscular hands appeared to possess a peculiar skill 
in breaking walnuts without the assistance of the 
ordinary cracker, and seeing him in profile, one 
could not help remarking the extraordinary breadth 
of his sleeves, and the unusual thickness of his 
chest. He was one of those men who are commonly 
spoken of among men as deceptive ; that is to say, 
that though he looked exceedingly strong he was 
in reahty very much stronger than he looked. Of 
his features I need say little. His head is small, 
his hair is thin, his eyes are blue, his nose is large, 
he has a small moustache and a square jaw. 
Everybody knows Brisbane, and when he asked for 
a cigar everybody looked at him. 

" It is a very singular thing," said Brisbane. 

Everybody stopped talking. Brisbane's voice 
was not loud, but possessed a peculiar quality of 
penetrating general conversation, and cutting it 
like a knife. Everybody listened. Brisbane, 
perceiving that he had attracted their general 
attention, lit his cigar with great equanimity. 



200 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" It is very singular/' he continued, " that thing 
about ghosts. People are always asking whether 
anybody has seen a ghost. I have." 

''Bosh ! What, you ? You don't mean to say so, 
Brisbane ? Well, for a man of his intelligence ! " 

A chorus of exclamations greeted Brisbane's 
remarkable statement. Everybody called for 
cigars, and Stubbs, the butler, suddenly appeared 
from the depths of nowhere with a fresh bottle of 
dry champagne. The situation was saved; Bris- 
bane was going to tell a story. 

I am an old sailor, said Brisbane, and as I have 
to cross the Atlantic pretty often, I have my fa- 
vourites. Most men have their favourites. I have 
seen a man wait in a Broadway bar for three- 
quarters of an hour for a particular car which he 
liked. I believe the bar-keeper made at least one- 
third of his living by that man's preference. I 
have a habit of waiting for certain ships when I am 
obliged to cross that duck-pond. It may be a 
prejudice, but I was never cheated out of a good 
passage but once in my life. I remember it very 
well; it was a warm morning in June, and the 
Custom House officials, who were hanging about 
waiting for a steamer already on her way up from 
the Quarantine, presented a peculiarly hazy and 
thoughtful appearance. I had not much luggage 
— I never have. I mingled with a crowd of 



THE UPPER BERTH 201 

passengers, porters, and officious individuals in blue 
coats and brass buttons, who seemed to spring up 
like mushrooms from the deck of a moored steamer 
to obtrude their unnecessary services upon the in- 
dependent passenger. I have often noticed with a 
certain interest the spontaneous evolution of these 
fellows. They are not there when you arrive ; 
five minutes after the pilot has called "Go ahead!" 
they, or at least their blue coats and brass buttons, 
have disappeared from deck and gangway as com- 
pletely as though they had been consigned to that 
locker which tradition unanimously ascribes to Davy 
Jones. But, at the moment of starting, they are 
there, clean shaved, blue coated, and ravenous for 
fees. I hastened on board. The Kamtschatka was 
one of my favourite ships. I say was, because she 
emphatically no longer is. I cannot conceive of 
any inducement which could entice me to make 
another voyage in her. Yes, I know what you are 
going to say. She is uncommonly clean in the run 
aft, she has enough bluffing off in the bows to keep 
her dry, and the lower berths are most of them 
double. She has a lot of advantages, but I won't 
cross in her again. Excuse the digression. I got 
on board. I hailed a steward, whose red nose and 
redder whiskers were equally familiar to me. 

" One hundred and ^ve^ lower berth," said I, in 
the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think 



202 WANDERING GHOSTS 

no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a 
whiskey cocktail at down-town Delmonico's. 

The steward took my portmanteau, greatcoat, 
and rug. I shall never forget the expression of 
his face. Not that he turned pale. It is main- 
tained by the most eminent divines that even 
miracles cannot change the course of nature. I 
have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn 
pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he 
was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to 
drop my portmanteau. As the latter contained 
two bottles of particularly fine old sherry pre- 
sented to me for my voyage by my old friend 
Snigginson van Picky ns, I felt extremely nervous. 
But the steward did none of these things. 

" Well, I'm d d ! " said he in a low voice, 

and led the way. 

I supposed my Hermes, as he led me to the 
lower regions, had had a little grog, but I said 
nothing and followed him. 105 was on the port 
side, well aft. There was nothing remarkable 
about the state-room. The lower berth, like most 
of those upon the Kamtschatka, was double. 
There was plenty of room; there was the usual 
washing apparatus, calculated to convey an idea of 
luxury to the mind of a North American Indian ; 
there were the usual inefficient racks of brown 
wood, in which it is more easy to hang a large- 



THE UPPER BERTH 203 

sized umbrella than the common tooth-brush of com- 
merce. Upon the uninviting mattresses were care- 
fully Xolded together those blankets which a great 
modern humourist has aptly compared to cold buck- 
w^ieat cakes. The question of towels was left entirely 
to the imagination. The glass decanters were filled 
with a transparent liquid faintly tinged with brown, 
but from which an odour less faint, but not more 
pleasing, ascended to the nostrils, like a far-off sea- 
sick reminiscence of oily machinery. Sad-coloured 
curtains half closed the upper berth. The hazy June 
daylight shed a faint illumination upon the deso- 
late little scene. Ugh ! how I hate that state-room ! 

The steward deposited my traps and looked at 
me as though he wanted to get away — probably 
in search of more passengers and more fees. It is 
always a good plan to start in favour with those 
functionaries, and I accordingly gave him certain 
coins there and then. 

" I'll try and make yer comfortable all I can," 
he remarked, as he put the coins in his pocket. 
Nevertheless, there was a doubtful intonation in 
his voice which surprised me. Possibly his scalo 
of fees had gone up, and he was not satisfied ; but 
on the whole I was inclined to think that, as he 
himself would have expressed it, he was " the 
better for a glass." I was wrong, however, and 
did the man injustice. 



204 WANDERING GHOSTS 

CHAPTER II 

Nothing especially worthy of mention occurred 
during that day. We left the pier punctually, 
and it was very pleasant to be fairly under way, for 
the weather was warm and sultry, and the motion 
of the steamer produced a refreshing breeze. 
Everybody knows what the first day at sea is like. 
People pace the decks and stare at each other, and 
occasionally meet acquaintances whom they did 
not know to be on board. There is the usual un- 
certainty as to whether the food will be good, bad, 
or indi:fferent, until the first two meals have put 
the matter beyond a doubt ; there is the usual un- 
certainty about the weather, until the ship is fairly 
of£ Fire Island. The tables are crowded at first, 
and then suddenly thinned. Pale-faced people 
spring from their seats and precipitate themselves 
towards the door, and each old sailor breathes 
more freely as his seasick neighbour rushes from 
his side, leaving him plenty of elbow-room and an 
unlimited command over the mustard. 

One passage across the Atlantic is very much 
like another, and we who cross very often do not 
make the voyage for the sake of novelty. Whales 
and icebergs are indeed always objects of interest, 
but, after all, one whale is very much like another 
whale, and one rarely sees an iceberg at close 



THE UPPER BERTH 205 

quarters. To tlie majority of us the most delight- 
ful moment of the day on board an ocean steamer 
is when we have taken our last turn on deck, have 
smoked our last cigar, and having succeeded in tir- 
ing ourselves, feel at liberty to turn in with a clear 
conscience. On that first night of the voyage I felt 
particularly lazy, and went to bed in 105 rather 
earlier than I usually do. As I turned m, I was 
amazed to see that I was to have a companion. A 
portmanteau, very like my own, lay in the opposite 
corner, and in the upper berth had been deposited 
a neatly folded rug, with a stick and umbrella. I 
had hoped to be alone, and I was disappointed ; 
but I wondered who my room-mate was to be, and 
I determined to have a look at him. 

Before I had been long in bed he entered. He 
was, as far as I could see, a very tall man, very 
thin, very pale, with sandy hair and whiskers and 
colourless grey eyes. He had about him, I thought, 
an air of rather dubious fashion ; the sort of man 
you might see in Wall Street, without being able 
precisely to say what he was doing there — the sort 
of man who frequents the Cafe Anglais, who always 
seems to be alone and who drinks champagne ; you 
might meet him on a racecourse, but he would 
never appear to be doing anything there either. 
A little over-dressed — a little odd. There are 
three or four of his kind on every ocean steamer. 



206 WANDERING GHOSTS 

I made up my mind that I did not care to make 
his acquaintance, and I went to sleep saying to my- 
self that I would study his habits in order to avoid 
him. If he rose early, I would rise late; if he 
went to bed late I would go to bed early. I did 
not care to know him. If you once know people 
of that kind, they are always turning up. Poor 
fellow ! I need not have taken the trouble to come 
to so many decisions about him, for I never saw 
him again after that first night in 105. 

I was sleeping soundly when I was suddenly 
waked by a loud noise. To judge from the sound, 
my room-mate must have sprung with a single leap 
from the upper berth to the floor. I heard him 
fumbling with the latch and bolt of the door, which 
opened almost immediately, and then I heard his 
footsteps as he ran at full speed down the jDassage, 
lea\dng the door open behind him. The ship was 
rolling a little, and I expected to hear him stumble 
or fall, but he ran as though he were running for 
his life. The door swung on its hinges with the 
motion of the vessel, and the sound annoyed me. 
I got up and shut it, and groped my way back to 
my berth in the darkness. I went to sleep regain ; 
but I have no idea how long I slept. 

When I awoke it was still quite dark, but I 
felt a disagreeable sensation of cold, and it seemed 
to me that the air was damp. You know the 



THE UPPER BERTH 207 

peculiar smell of a cabin which has been wet 
with sea-water. I covered myself up as well as 
I could and dozed off again, framing complaints 
to be made the next day, and selecting the most 
powerful epithets in the language. I could hear 
my room-mate turn over in the upper berth. 
He had probably returned while I was asleep. 
Once I thought I heard him groan, and I argued 
that he was sea-sick. That is particularly unpleas- 
ant when one is below. Nevertheless I dozed 
off and slept till early daylight. 

The ship was rolling heavily, much more than 
on the previous evening, and the grey light which 
came in through the porthole changed in tint with 
every movement according as the angle of the 
vessel's side turned the glass seawards or sky- 
wards. It was very cold — unaccountably so for 
the month of June. I turned my head and 
looked at the porthole, and saw to my surprise 
that it was wide open and hooked back. I believe 
I swore audibly. Then I got up and shut it. 
As I turned back I glanced at the upper berth. 
The curtains were drawn close together; my 
companion had probably felt cold as well as I. 
It struck me that I had slept enough. The state- 
room was uncomfortable, though, strange to say, 
I could not smell the dampness which had annoyed 
me in the night. My room-mate was still asleep 



208 WANDERING GHOSTS 

— excellent opportunity for avoiding him, so I 
dressed at once and went on deck. The day 
was warm and cloudy, with an oily smell on 
the water. It was seven o'clock as I came out 

— much later than I had imagined. I came 
across the doctor, who was taking his first sniff 
of the morning air. He was a young man from 
the West of Ireland — a tremendous fellow, with 
black hair and blue eyes, already inclined to 
be stout; he had a happy-go-lucky, healthy look 
about him which was rather attractive. 

"Fine morning," I remarked, by way of intro- 
duction. 

" Well," said he, eyeing me with an air of ready 
interest, " it's a fine morning and it's not a fine 
morning. I don't think it's much of a morning." 

"Well, no — it is not so very fine," said I. 

"It's just what I call fuggly weather," replied 
the doctor. 

" It was very cold last night, I thought," I 
remarked. " However, when I looked about, I 
found that the porthole was wide open. I had 
not noticed it when I went to bed. And the 
state-room was damp, too." 

" Damp 1 " said he. " Whereabouts are you ? " 

" One hundred and five — " 

To my surprise the doctor started visibly, and 
stared at me. 



THE UPPER BERTH 209 

^^ What is the matter ? " I asked. 

"Oh — nothing," he answered; "only every- 
body has complained of that state-room for the 
last three trips." 

^^I shall complain, too," I said. "It has cer- 
tainly not been properly aired. It is a shame ! " 

"I don't believe it can be helped," answered 
the doctor. "I believe there is something — 
well, it is not my business to frighten passengers." 

" Yon need not be afraid of frightening me," 
I replied. " I can stand any amount of damp. 
If I should get a bad cold, I will come to you." 

I offered the doctor a cigar, which he took 
and examined very critically. 

" It is not so much the damp," he remarked. 
" However, I dare say you will get on very well. 
Have you a room-mate ? " 

" Yes ; a deuce of a fellow, who bolts out in 
the middle of the night, and leaves the door 
open." 

Again the doctor glanced curiously at me. 
Then he lit the cigar and looked grave. 

" Did he come back ? " he asked presently. 

"Yes. I was asleep, but I waked up, and 
heard him moving. Then I felt cold and went 
to sleep again. This morning I found the port- 
hole open." 

" Look here," said the doctor quietly, " I don't 



210 WANDERING GHOSTS 

care much for this ship. I don't care a rap for 
her reputation. I tell you what I will do. I 
have a good-sized place up here. I will share 
it with you, though I don't know you from 
Adam." 

I was very much surprised at the proposition. 
I could not imagine why he should take such a 
sudden interest in my welfare. However, his 
manner, as he spoke of the ship, was peculiar. 

"You are very good, doctor," I said. "But, 
really, I believe even now the cabin could be 
aired, or cleaned out, or something. Why do you 
not care for the ship ? " 

" AVe are not superstitious in our profession, sir," 
replied the doctor, " but the sea makes people so. 
I don't want to prejudice you, and I don't want to 
frighten you, but if you will take my advice you 
will move in here. I would as soon see you over- 
board," he added earnestly, " as know that you or 
any other man was to sleep in 105." 

" Good gracious ! Why ? " I asked. 

" Just because on the three last trips the people 
who have slept there actually have gone over- 
board," he answered gravely. 

The intelligence was startling and exceedingly 
unpleasant, I confess. I looked hard at the doctor 
to see whether he was making game of me, but he 
looked perfectly serious. I thanked him warmly 



THE UPPER BERTH 211 

for his offer, but told him I intended to be the ex- 
ception to the rule by which every one who slept 
in that particular state-room went overboard. He 
did not say much, but looked as grave as ever, and 
hinted that, before we got across, I should probably 
reconsider his proposal. In the course of time we 
went to breakfast, at which only an inconsiderable 
number of passengers assembled. I noticed that 
one or two of the officers who breakfasted with us 
looked grave. After breakfast I went into my 
state-room in order to get a book. The curtains of 
the upper berth were still closely drawn. Not a 
sound was to be heard. My room-mate was prob- 
ably still asleep. 

As I came out I met the steward whose business 
it was to look after me. He whispered that the 
captain wanted to see me, and then scuttled away 
down the passage as if very anxious to avoid any 
questions. I went toward the captain's cabin, and 
found him waiting for me. 

^'Sir," said he, "I want to ask a favour of 
you." 

I answered that I would do anything to oblige 
him. 

"Your room-mate has disappeared," he said. 
" He is known to have turned in early last night. 
Did you notice anything extraordinary in his 
manner ? " 



212 WANDERING GHOSTS 

The questioiij coming as it did in exact confirma- 
tion of the fears the doctor had expressed half an 
hour earlier, staggered me. 

" You don't mean to say he has gone over- 
board ? " I asked. 

" I fear he has/' answered the captain. 

" This is the most extraordinary thing — "I 
began. 

"Why?" he asked. 

" He is the fourth, then ? " I explained. In an- 
swer to another question from the captain, I ex- 
plained, without mentioning the doctor, that I had 
heard the story concerning 105. He seemed very 
much annoyed at hearing that I knew of it. I told 
him what had occurred in the night. 

" What you say," he replied, " coincides almost 
exactly with what was told me by the room-mates 
of two of the other three. They bolt out of bed 
and run down the passage. Two of them were 
seen to go overboard by the watch; we stopped 
and lowered boats, but they were not found. 
Nobody, however, saw or heard the man who 
was lost last night — if he is really lost. The 
steward, who is a superstitious fellow, perhaps, 
and expected something to go wrong, went to 
look for him this morning, and found his berth 
empty, but his clothes lying about, just as he 
had left them. The steward was the only man 



THE UPPER BERTH 213 

on board who knew him by sight, and he has 
been searching everywhere for him. He has 
disappeared! Now, sir, I want to beg yon not 
to mention the circumstance to any of the pas- 
sengers; I don't want the ship to get a bad 
name, and nothing hangs about an ocean-goer 
like stories of suicides. You shall have your 
choice of any one of the officers' cabins you 
like, including my own, for the rest of the 
passage. Is that a fair bargain?" 

"Very," said I; "and I am much obliged to 
you. But since I am alone, and have the state- 
room to myself, I would rather not move. If 
the steward will take out that unfortunate man's 
things, I would as lief stay where I am. I will 
not say anything about the matter, and I think 
I can promise you that I will not follow my 
room-mate." 

The captain tried to dissuade me f.'om my 
intention, but I preferred having a state-room 
alone to being the chum of any officer on board. 
I do not know whether I acted foolishly, but if 
I had taken his advice I should have had nothing 
more to tell. There would have remained the dis- 
agreeable coincidence of several suicides occurring 
among men who had slept in the same cabin, 
but that would have been all. 

That was not the end of the matter, however, 



214 WANDERING GHOSTS 

by any means. I obstinately made up my mind 
that I would not be disturbed by such tales, and 
I even went so far as to argue the question with 
the captain. There was something wrong about 
the state-room, I said. It was rather damp. 
The porthole had been left open last night. 
My room-mate might have been ill when he 
came on board, and he might have become 
delirious after he went to bed. He might even 
now be hiding somewhere on board, and might 
be found later. The place ought to be aired 
and the fastening of the port looked to. If the 
captain would give me leave, I would see that 
what I thought necessary were done immediately. 

" Of course you have a right to stay where you 
are if you please," he replied, rather petulantly; 
"but I wish you would turn out and let me lock 
the place up, and be done with it." 

I did not see it in the same light, and left 
the captain, after promising to be silent con- 
cerning the disappearance of my companion. 
The latter had had no acquaintances on board, 
and was not missed in the course of the day. 
Towards evening I met the doctor again, and 
he asked me whether I had changed my mind. 
I told him I had not. 

" Then you will before long," he said, very 
gravely. 



THE UPPER BERTH 215 

CHAPTER III 

We played whist in the evening, and I went 
to bed late. I will confess now that I felt a 
disagreeable sensation when I entered my state- 
room. I could not help thinking of the tall man 
I had seen on the previous night, who was now 
dead, drowned, tossing about in the long swell, 
two or three hundred miles astern. His face 
rose very distinctly before me as I undressed, 
and I even went so far as to draw back the 
curtains of the upper berth, as though to per- 
suade myself that he was actually gone. I also 
bolted the door of the state-room. Suddenly I 
became aware that the porthole was open, and 
fastened back. This was more than I could 
stand. I hastily threw on my dressing-gown and 
went in search of Robert, the steward of my passage. 
I was very angry, I remember, and when I found 
him I dragged him roughly to the door of 105, 
and pushed him towards the open porthole. 

"What the deuce do you mean, you scoundrel, 
by leaving that port open every night ? Don't you 
know it is against the regulations ? Don't you 
know that if the ship heeled and the water began 
to come in, ten men could not shut it ? I will 
report you to the captain, you blackguard, for 
endangering the ship!" 



216 WANDERING GHOSTS 

I was exceedingly wroth. The man trembled 
and turned pale, and then began to shut the round 
glass plate with the heavy brass fittings. 

" Why don't you answer me ? " I said roughly. 

'^ If you please, sir," faltered Robert, '' there's 
nobody on board as can keep this 'ere port shut at 
night. You can try it yourself, sir. I ain't a-go- 
ing to stop hany longer on board o' this vessel, sir; 
I ain't, indeed. But if I was you, sir, I'd just clear 
out and go and sleep with the surgeon, or some- 
thing, I would. Look 'ere, sir, is that fastened 
what you may call securely, or not, sh? Try it, 
sir, see if it will move a hinch. 

I tried the port, and found it perfectly tight. 

'^ Well, sir," continued Robert, triumphantly, " I 
wager my reputation as a Al steward that in 'arf 
an hour it will be open again ; fastened back, too, 
sir, that's the horful thing — fastened back ! " 

I examined tho great screw and the looped nut 
that ran on it. 

" If I find it open in the night, Robert, I will give 
you a sovereign. It is not possible. You may go." 

" Soverin' did you say, sir ? Very good, sir. 
Thank ye, sir. Good-night, sir. Pleasant reepose, 
sir, and all manner of hinchantin' dreams, sir." 

Robert scuttled away, delighted at being released. 
Of course, I thought he was trying to account for 
his negligence by a silly story, intended to frighten 



THE UPPER BERTH 217 

me, and I disbelieved him. The consequence was 
that he got his sovereign, and I spent a very pecul- 
iarly unpleasant night. 

I went to bed, and five minutes after I had 
rolled myself up in my blankets the inexorable 
Eobert extinguished the light that burned steadily 
behind the ground-glass pane near the door. I lay 
quite still in the dark trying to go to sleep, but I 
soon found that impossible. It had been some 
satisfaction to be angry with the steward, and the 
diversion had banished that unpleasant sensation I 
had at first experienced when I thought of the 
drowned man who had been my chum ; but I was 
no longer sleepy, and I lay awake for some time, 
occasionally glancing at the porthole, which I could 
just see from where I lay, and which, in the darkness, 
looked like a faintly luminous soup-plate suspended 
in blackness. I believe I must have lain there for 
an hour, and, as I remember, I was just dozing 
into sleep when I was roused by a draught of cold 
air, and by distinctly feeling the spray of the sea 
blown upon my face. I started to my feet, and not 
having allowed in the dark for the motion of the 
ship, I was instantly thrown violently across the 
state-room upon the couch which was placed be- 
neath the porthole. I recovered myself immedi- 
ately, however, and climbed upon my knees. The 
porthole was again wide open and fastened back! 



218 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Now these things are facts. I was wide awake 
when I got up, and I should certainly have been 
waked by the fall had I still been dozing. More- 
over, I bruised my elbows and knees badly, and 
the bruises were there on the following morning to 
testify to the fact, if I myself had doubted it. The 
porthole was wide open and fastened back — a 
thing so unaccountable that I remember very well 
feeling astonishment rather than fear when I dis- 
covered it. I at once closed the plate again, and 
screwed down the loop nut with all my strength. 
It was very dark in the state-room. I reflected 
that the port had certainly been opened within an 
hour after Robert had at first shut it in my pres- 
ence, and I determined to watch it, and see whether 
it would open again. Those brass fittings are very 
heavy and by no means easy to move ; I could not 
believe that the clump had been turned by the 
shaking of the screw. I stood peering out through 
the thick glass at the alternate white and grey 
streaks of the sea that foamed beneath the ship's 
side. I must have remained there a quarter of an 
hour. 

Suddenly, as I stood, I distinctly heard some- 
thing moving behind me in one of the berths, and 
a moment afterwards, just as I turned instinctively 
to look — though I could, of course, see nothing in 
the darkness — I heard a very faint groan. I 



THE UPPER BERTH 219 

sprang across the state-room, and tore the curtains 
of the upper berth aside, thrusting in my hands to 
discover if there were any one there. There was 
some one. 

I remember that the sensation as I put my 
hands forward w^as as though I were plunging 
them into the air of a damp cellar, and from be- 
hind the curtains came a gust of wind that smelled 
horribly of stagnant sea-water. I laid hold of 
something that had the shape of a man's arm, but 
was smooth, and wet, and icy cold. But suddenly, 
as I pulled, the creature sprang violently forward 
against me, a clammy, oozy mass, as it seemed to 
me, heavy and wet, yet endowed with a sort of 
supernatural strength. I reeled across the state- 
room, and in an instant the door opened and the 
thing rushed out. I had not had time to be fright- 
ened, and quickly recovering myself, I sprang 
through the door and gave chase at the top of my 
speed, but I was too late. Ten yards before me I 
could see — I am sure I saw it — a dark shadow 
moving in the dimly lighted passage, quickly as 
the shadow of a fast horse thrown before a dog- 
cart by the lamp on a dark night. But in a mo- 
ment it had disappeared, and I found myself hold- 
ing on to the polished rail that ran along the 
bulkhead where the passage turned towards the com- 
panion. My hair stood on end, and the cold per- 



220 W^ANDERING GHOSTS 

spiration rolled down my face. I am not ashamed 
of it in the least : I was very badly frightened. 

Still I doubted my senses, and pulled myself 
together. It was absurd, I thought. The Welsh 
rarebit I had eaten had disagreed with me. I had 
been in a nightmare. I made my way back to my 
state-room, and entered it with an effort. The 
whole place smelled of stagnant sea-w ater, as it had 
when I had waked on the previous evening. It 
required my utmost strength to go in, and grope 
among my things for a box of wax lights. As I 
lighted a railway reading lantern which I always 
carry in case I want to read after the lamps are 
out, I perceived that the porthole was again open, 
and a sort of creeping horror began to take posses- 
sion of me which I never felt before, nor wish to 
feel again. But I got a light and proceeded to 
examine the upper berth, expecting to find it 
drenched with sea-water. 

But I was disappointed. The bed had been 
slept in, and the smell of the sea was strong ; but 
the bedding was as dry as a bone. I fancied that 
Robert had not had the courage to make the bed 
after the accident of the previous night — it had 
all been a hideous dream. I drew the curtains 
back as far as I could and examined the place 
very carefully. It was perfectly dry. But the 
porthole was open again. With a sort of dull be- 



THE UPPER BERTH 221 

wilderment of horror I closed it and screwed it 
down, and thrusting my heavy stick through the 
brass loop, wrenched it with all my might, till the 
thick metal began to bend under the pressure. 
Then I hooked my reading lantern into the red 
velvet at the head of the couch, and sat down to 
recover my senses if I could. I sat there all night, 
unable to think of rest — hardly able to think at 
all. But the porthole remained closed, and I did 
not believe it would now open again without the 
application of a considerable force. 

The morning dawned at last, and I dressed myself 
slowly, thinking over all that had happened in the 
night. It was a beautiful day and I went on deck, 
glad to get out into the early, pure sunshine, and to 
smell the breeze from the blue water, so different from 
the noisome, stagnant odour of my state-room. In- 
stinctively I turned aft, towards the surgeon's cabin. 
There he stood, with a pipe in his mouth, taking his 
morning airing precisely as on the preceding day. 

" Good-morning," said he quietly, but looking at 
me with evident curiosity. 

" Doctor, you were quite right," said I. '^ There 
is something wrong about that place." 

"I thought you would change your mind," he 
answered, rather triumphantly. " You have had a 
bad night, eh ? Shall I make you a pick-me-up ? 
I have a capital recipe." 



222 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" No, thanks/' I cried. " But I would like to 
tell you what happened." 

I then tried to explain as clearly as possible 
precisely what had occurred, not omitting to 
state that I had been scared as I had never been 
scared in my whole life before. I dwelt partic- 
ularly on the phenomenon of the porthole, which 
was a fact to which I could testify, even if the 
rest had been an illusion. I had closed it twice in 
the night, and the second time I had actually bent 
the brass in wrenching it with my stick. I believe 
I insisted a good deal on this point. 

" You seem to think I am likely to doubt the 
story," said the doctor, smiling at the detailed 
account of the state of the porthole. " I do not 
doubt it in the least. I renew my invitation to you. 
Bring your traps here, and take half my cabin." 

" Come and take half of mine for one night," I said. 
" Help me to get at the bottom of this thing." 

"You will get to the bottom of something else 
if you try," answered the doctor. 

" What ? " I asked. 

" The bottom of the sea. I am going to leave 
this ship. It is not canny." 

" Then you will not help me to find out — " 

"Not I," said the doctor, quickly. "It is my 
business to keep my wits about me — not to go 
fiddling about with ghosts and things." 



THE UPPER BERTH 223 

" Do yoiT really believe it is a gliost ? " I en- 
quired, rather contemptuously. But as I spoke I 
remembered very well the horrible sensation of the 
supernatural which had got possession of me during 
the night. The doctor turned sharply on me. 

" Have you any reasonable explanation of these 
things to offer ? " he asked. " No ; you have 
not. Well, you say you will find an explanation. 
I say that you won't, sir, simply because there 
is not any. 

" But, my dear sir," I retorted, " do you, a man 
of science, mean to tell me that such things cannot 
be explained ? " 

"I do," he answered stoutly. "And, if they 
could, I would not be concerned in the explana- 
tion." 

I did not care to spend another night alone 
in the state-room, and yet I was obstinately 
determined to get a.t the root of the disturbances. 
I do not believe there are many raen who would 
have slept there alone, after passing two such nights. 
But I made up my mind to try it, if I could not get 
any one to share a watch with me. The doctor 
was evidently not inclined for such an experiment. 
He said he was a surgeon, and that in case any 
accident occurred on board he must be always in 
readiness. He could not afford to have his nerves 
unsettled. Perhaps he was quite right, but I am 



224 WANDERING GHOSTS 

inclined to think that his precaution was prompted 
by his inchnation. On enquiry, he informed me 
that there was no one on board who would be 
likely to join me in my investigations, and after 
a little more conversation I left him. A little 
later I met the captain, and told him my story. I 
said that, if no one would spend the night with me, 
I would ask leave to have the light burning all 
night, and would try it alone. 

"Look here," said he, "I will tell you what I 
will do. I will share your watch myself, and we 
will see what happens. It is my belief that we 
can find out between us. There may be some 
fellow skulking on board, who steals a passage by 
frightening the passengers. It is just possible that 
there may be something queer in the carpentering 
of that berth." 

I suggested taking the ship's carpenter below 
and examining the place ; but I was overjoyed at 
the captain's offer to spend the night with me. 
He accordingly sent for the workman and ordered 
him to do anything I required. We went below 
at once. I had all the bedding cleared out of the 
upper berth, and we examined the place thoroughly 
to see if there was a board loose anywhere, or a 
panel which could be opened or pushed aside. 
We tried the planks everywhere, tapped the floor- 
ing, unscrewed the fittings of the lower berth and 



THE UPPER BERTH 225 

took it to pieces — in short, there was not a square 
inch of the state-room which was not searched and 
tested. Everything was in perfect order, and we 
put everything back in its place. As we were 
finishing our work, Robert came to the door and 
looked in. 

" TV ell, sir — find anything, sir ? " he asked, 
with a ghastly grin. 

" You were right about the porthole, Robert," I 
said, and I gave him the promised sovereign. 
The carpenter did his work silently and skilfully, 
following my directions. When he had done he 
spoke. 

"I'm a plain man, sir," he said. "But it's my 
belief you had better just turn out your things, 
and let me run half a dozen four-inch screws 
through the door of this cabin. There's no good 
never came o' this cabin yet, sir, and that's all 
about it. There's been four lives lost out o' here 
to my own remembrance, and that in four trips. 
Better give it up, sir — better give it up ! " 

" I will try it for one night more," I said. 

" Better give it up, sir — better give it up ! It's 
a precious bad job," repeated the workman, putting 
his tools in his bag and leaving the cabin. 

But my spirits had risen considerably at the 
prospect of having the captain's company, and I 
made up my mind not to be prevented from going 



226 WANDERING GHOSTS 

to the end of the strange business. I abstained 
from Welsh rarebits and grog that evening, and 
did not even join in the customary game of whist. 
I wanted to be quite sure of my nerves, and my 
vanity made me anxious to make a good figure in 
the captain's eyes. 



CHAPTER IV 

The captain was one of those splendidly tough and 
cheerful specimens of seafaring humanity whose 
combined courage, hardihood, and calmness in diffi- 
culty leads them naturally into high positions of 
trust. He was not the man to be led away by an 
idle tale, and the mere fact that he was willing to 
join me in the investigation was proof that he 
thought there was something seriously w^rong, 
which could not be accounted for on ordinary 
theories, nor laughed down as a common supersti- 
tion. To some extent, too, his reputation was at 
stake, as well as the reputation of the ship. It is 
no light thing to lose passengers overboard, and he 
knew it. 

About ten o'clock that evening, as I was smok- 
ing a last cigar, he came up to me, and drew me 
aside from the beat of the other passengers who 
were patrolling the deck in the warm darkness. 



THE UPPER BERTH 227 

"This is a serious matter, Mr. Brisbane," he 
said. " We must make up our minds either way 
— to be disappointed or to have a pretty rough 
time of it. You see I cannot a:fford to laugh at the 
affair, and I will ask you to sign your name to a 
statement of whatever occurs. If nothing happens 
to-night, we will try it again to-morrow and next 
day. Are you ready ? " 

So we went below, and entered the state-room. 
As we went in I could see Robert the steward, who 
stood a little further down the passage, watching 
us, with his usual grin, as though certain that some- 
thing dreadful was about to happen. The captain 
closed the door behind us and bolted it. 

" Supposing we put your portmanteau before the 
door," he suggested. "One of us can sit on it. 
Nothing can get out then. Is the port screwed 
down ? " 

I found it as I had left it in the morning. In- 
deed, without using a lever, as I had done, no one 
could have opened it. I drew back the curtains of 
the upper berth so that I could see well into it. 
By the captain's advice I lighted my reading lan- 
tern, and placed it so that it shone upon the white 
sheets above. He insisted upon sitting on the port- 
manteau, declaring that he wished to be able to 
swear that he had sat before the door. 

Then he requested me to search the stateroom 



228 WANDERING GHOSTS 

thoroughly, an operation very soon accomplished, 
as it consisted merely in looking beneath the lower 
berth and under the couch below the porthole. 
The spaces were quite empty. 

"It is impossible for any human being to get in," 
I said, " or for any human being to open the port." 

" Very good," said the captain, calmly. " If we 
see anything now, it must be either imagination or 
something supernatiural." 

I sat down on the edge of the lower berth. 

" The first time it happened," said the captain, 
crossing his legs and leaning back against the door, 
" was in March. The passenger w^ho slept here, in 
the upper berth, tm-ned out to have been a lunatic 
— at all events, he was known to have been a little 
touched, and he had taken his passage without the 
knowledge of his friends. He rushed out in the 
middle of the night, and threw himself overboard, 
before the officer who had the watch could stop 
him. We stopped and lowered a boat ; it was a 
quiet night, just before that heavy weather came 
on; but we could not find him. Of course his 
suicide was afterwards accounted for on the ground 
of his insanity." 

" I suppose that often happens ? " I remarked, 
rather absently. 

" Not of ten — no," said the captain; "never be- 
fore in my experience, though I have heard of it 



THE UPPER BERTH 229 

happening on board of other ships. Well, as I was 
sayings that occurred in March. On the very next 
trip — What are you looking at ? " he asked, 
stopping suddenly in his narration. 

I believe I gave no answer. My eyes were riveted 
upon the porthole. It seemed to me that the brass 
loop-nut was beginning to turn very slowly upon 
the screw— so slowly, however, that I was not sure 
it moved at all. I watched it intently, fixing its 
position in my mind, and trying to ascertain 
whether it changed. Seeing where I was looking, 
the captain looked too. 

" It moves ! " he exclaimed, in a tone of convic- 
tion. "No, it does not," he added, after a minute. 

" If it were the jarring of the screw," said I, " it 
would have opened during the day ; but I found it 
this evening jammed tight as I left it this morning." 

I rose and tried the nut. It was certainly 
loosened, for by an effort I could move it with my 
hands. 

" The queer thing," said the captain, " is that the 
second man who was lost is supposed to have got 
through that very port. We had a terrible time 
over it. It was in the middle of the night, and 
the weather was very heavy ; there was an alarm 
that one of the ports was open and the sea running 
in. I came below and found everything flooded, 
the water pouring in every time she rolled, and the 



230 WANDERING GHOSTS 

whole port swinging from the top bolts — not the 
porthole in the middle. Well, we managed to shut 
it, but the water did some damage. Ever since 
that the place smells of sea-water from time to time. 
We supposed the passenger had thrown himself out, 
though the Lord only knows how he did it. The 
steward kept telling me that he cannot keep any- 
thing shut here. Upon my word — I can smell it 
now, cannot you?" he enquired, sniffing the air 
suspiciously. 

"Yes — distinctly," I said, and I shuddered as 
that same odour of stagnant sea-water grew stronger 
in the cabin. " Now, to smell like this, the place 
must be damp," I continued, " and yet when I ex- 
amined it with the carpenter this morning every- 
thing was perfectly dry. It is most extraordinary 
—hallo ! " 

My reading lantern, which had been placed in 
the upper berth, was suddenly extinguished. There 
was still a good deal of light from the pane of 
ground glass near the door, behind which loomed 
the regulation lamp. The ship rolled heavily, and 
the curtain of the upper berth swung far out into 
the state-room and back again. I rose quickly from 
my seat on the edge of the bed, and the captain at 
the same moment started to his feet with a loud cry 
of surprise. I had turned with the intention of 
taking down the lantern to examine it, when I heard 



THE UPPER BERTH 231 

his exclamation, and immediately afterwards his call 
for help. I sprang towards him. He was wrestling 
with all his might with the brass loop of the port. 
It seemed to turn against his hands in spite of all 
his efforts. I caught up my cane, a heavy oak 
stick I always used to carry, and thrust it through 
the ring and bore on it with all my strength. But 
the strong wood snapped suddenly, and I fell upon 
the couch. When I rose again the port was wide 
open, and the captain was standing with his back 
against the door, pale to the lips. 

"There is something in that berth ! " he cried, in 
a strange voice, his eyes almost starting from his 
head. "Hold the door, while I look — it shall not 
escape us, whatever it is ! " 

But instead of taking his place, I sprang upon 
the lower bed, and seized something which lay in 
the upper berth. 

It was something ghostly, horrible beyond words, 
and it moved in my grip. It was like the body of 
a man long drowned, and yet it moved, and had 
the strength of ten men living ; but I gripped it 
with all my might — the slippery, oozy, horrible 
thing — the dead white eyes seemed to stare at 
me out of the dusk ; the putrid odour of rank 
sea-water was about it, and its shiny hair hung 
in foul wet curls over its dead face. I wrestled 
with the dead thing; it thrust itself upon me 



232 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and forced me back and nearly broke my arms ; 
it wound its corpse's arms about my neck, the 
living death, and overpowered me, so that I, at 
last, cried aloud and fell, and left my hold. 

As I fell the thing sprang across me, and seemed 
to throw itself upon the captain. When I last saw 
him on his feet his face was white and his lips set. 
It seemed to me that he struck a violent blow at 
the dead being, and then he, too, fell forward upon 
his face, with an inarticulate cry of horror. 

The thing paused an instant, seeming to hover 
over his prostrate body, and I could have screamed 
again for very fright, but I had no voice left. The 
thing vanished suddenly, and it seemed to my dis- 
turbed senses that it made its exit through the 
open port, though how that was possible, con- 
sidering the smallness of the aperture, is more 
than any one can tell. I lay a long time upon 
the floor, and the captain lay beside me. At 
last I partially recovered my senses and moved, 
and instantly I knew that my arm was broken 
— the small bone of the left forearm near the 
wrist. 

I got upon my feet somehow, and with my 
remaining hand I tried to raise the captain. He 
groaned and moved, and at last came to himself. 
He was not hurt, but he seemed badly stunned. 

Well, do you want to hear any more ? There 



THE UPPER BERTH 233 

is nothing more. That is the end of my story. 
The carpenter carried out his scheme of running 
half a dozen four-inch screws through the door 
of 105 ; and if ever you take a passage in the 
Kamtscliatha, you may ask for a berth in that 
state-room. You will be told that it is engaged 
— yes — it is engaged by that dead thing. 

I finished the trip in the surgeon's cabin. He 
doctored my broken arm, and advised me not to 
"fiddle about with ghosts and things " any more. 
The captain was very silent, and never sailed 
again in that ship, though it is still running. 
And I will not sail in her either. It was a very 
disagreeable experience, and I was very badly 
frightened, which is a thing I do not like. That 
is all. That is how I saw a ghost — if it was a 
ghost. It was dead, anyhow. 



BY THE WATEKS OF PAEADISE 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 

I REMEMBER my childhood very distinctly. I do 
not think that the fact argues a good memory, for 
I have never been clever at learning words by 
heart, in prose or rhyme ; so that I believe my re- 
membrance of events depends much more upon 
the events themselves than upon my possessing 
any special facility for recalling them. Perhaps 
I am too imaginative, and the earliest impressions 
I received were of a kind to stimulate the imagina- 
tion abnormally. A long series of little misfortunes, 
connected with each other so as to suggest a sort 
of weird fatality, so worked upon my melancholy 
temperament when I was a boy that, before I was 
of age, I sincerely believed myself to be under a 
curse, and not only myself, but my whole family, 
and every individual who bore my name. 

I was born in the old place where my father, 
and his father, and all his predecessors had been 
born, beyond the memory of man. It is a very old 
house, and the greater part of it was originally a 
castle, strongly fortified, and surrounded by a deep 
moat supplied with abundant water from the hills 

237 



238 WANDERING GHOSTS 

by a hidden aqueduct. Many of the fortifications 
have been destroyed, and the moat has been filled 
up. The water from the aqueduct supplies great 
fountains, and runs down into huge oblong basins 
in the terraced gardens, one below the other, each 
surrounded by a broad pavement of marble between 
the water and the flower-beds. The waste surplus 
finally escapes through an artificial grotto, some 
thirty yards long, into a stream, flowing down 
through the park to the meadows beyond, and 
thence to the distant river. The buildings were ex- 
tended a little and greatly altered more than two 
hundred years ago, in the time of Charles II., but 
since then little has been done to improve them, 
though they have been kept in fairly good repair, 
according to our fortunes. 

In the gardens there are terraces and huge 
hedges of box and evergreen, some of which used 
to be clipped into shapes of animals, in the Italian 
style. I can remember when I was a lad how I 
used to try to make out what the trees were cut 
to represent, and how I used to appeal for explana- 
tions to Judith, my Welsh nurse. She dealt in 
a strange mythology of her own, and peopled the 
gardens with grifflns, dragons, good genii and bad, 
and filled my mind with them at the same time. 
My nursery window afforded a view of the great 
fountains at the head of the upper basin, and on 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 239 

moonlight nights the Welshwoman would hold me 
up to the glass, and bid me look at the mist and 
spray rising into mysterious shapes, moving mysti- 
cally in the white light like living things. 

" It's the Woman of the Water/' she used to say ; 
and sometimes she would threaten that, if I did not go 
to sleep, the Woman of the Water would steal up to 
the high window and carry me away in her wet arms. 

The place was gloomy. The broad basins of 
water and the tall evergreen hedges gave it a 
funereal look, and the damp-stained marble cause- 
ways by the pools might have been made of tomb- 
stones. The grey and weather-beaten walls and 
towers without, the dark and massively furnished 
rooms within, the deep, mysterious recesses and 
the heavy curtains, all affected my spirits. I was 
silent and sad from my childhood. There was a 
great clock-tower above, from which the hours 
rang dismally during the day and tolled like a 
knell in the dead of night. There was no light 
nor life in the house, for my mother was a helpless 
invalid, and my father had grown melancholy in 
his long task of caring for her. He was a thin, 
dark man, with sad eyes ; kind, I think, but silent 
and unhappy. Next to my mother, I believe he 
loved me better than anything on earth, for he 
took immense pains and trouble in teaching me, 
and what he taught me I have never forgotten. 



240 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Perhaps it was his only amusement, and that may- 
be the reason why I had no nursery governess or 
teacher of an}^ kind while he lived. 

I used to be taken to see my mother every day, 
and sometimes twice a day, for an hour at a time. 
Then I sat upon a little stool near her feet, and 
she would ask me what I had been doing, and 
what I wanted to do. I dare say she saw already 
the seeds of a profound melancholy in my nature, 
for she looked at me always with a sad smile, and 
kissed me with a sigh when I was taken away. 

One night, when I was just six years old, I lay 
av/ake in the nursery. The door was not quite 
shut, and the Welsh nurse was sitting sewing 
in the next room. Suddenly I heard her groan, 
and say in a strange voice, " One — two — one — 
two ! " I was frightened, and I jumped up and 
ran to the door, barefooted as I was. 

" What is it, Judith ? " I cried, clinging to her 
«kirts. I can remember the look in her strange 
dark eyes as she answered. 

" One — two leaden coffins, fallen from the ceil- 
ing ! " she crooned, working herself in her chair. 
" One — two — a light coffin and a heavy coffin, 
falling to the floor ! " 

Then she seemed to notice me, and she took me 
back to bed and sang me to sleep with a queer old 
Welsh song. 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 241 

I do not know how it was, but the impression 
got hold of me that she had meant that my father 
and mother were going to die very soon. They 
died in the very room where she had been sitting 
that night. It was a great room, my day nm^sery, 
full of sun when there was any ; and when the 
days were dark it was the most cheerful place in 
the house. My mother grew rapidly worse, and I 
was transferred to another part of the building to 
make place for her. They thought my nursery 
was gayer for her, I suppose; but she could not 
live. She was beautiful when she was dead, and 
I cried bitterly. 

" The light one, the light one — the heavy one 
to come," crooned the Welshwoman. And she 
was right. My father took the room after my 
mother was gone, and day by day he grew thinner 
and paler and sadder. 

"The heavy one, the heavy one — all of lead," 
moaned my nurse, one night in December, stand- 
ing still, just as she was going to take away the 
light after putting me to bed. Then she took me 
up again, and wrapped me in a little gown, and 
led me away to i^y father's room. She knocked, 
but no one answered. She opened the door, and 
we found him in his easy-chair before the fire, very 
white, quite dead. 

So I was alone with the Welshwoman till 



242 WANDERING GHOSTS 

strange people came, and relations, whom I had 
never seen ; and then I heard them saying that I 
must be taken away to some more cheerful place. 
They were kind people, and I will not believe that 
they were kind only because I was to be very rich 
when I grew to be a man. The world never 
seemed to be a very bad place to me, nor all the 
people to be miserable sinners, even when I was 
most melancholy. I do not remember that any 
one ever did me any great injustice, nor that I was 
ever oppressed or ill-treated in any way, even by 
the boys at school. I was sad, I suppose, because 
my childhood was so gloomy, and, later, because I 
was unlucky in everything I undertook, till I 
finally believed I was pursued by fate, and I used 
to dream that the old Welsh nurse and the Woman 
of the Water between them had vowed to pursue 
me to my end. But my natural disposition should 
have been cheerful, as I have often thought. 

Among lads of my age I was never last, or even 
among the last, in anything; but I was never first. 
If I trained for a race, I was sure to sprain my 
ankle on the day when I was to run. If I pulled 
an oar with others, my oar was sure to break. If 
I competed for a prize, some unforseen accident 
prevented my winning it at the last moment. 
Nothing to which I put my hand succeeded, and I 
got the reputation of being unlucky, until my com- 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 243 

panions felt it was always safe to bet against me, 
no matter what the appearances might be. I be- 
came discouraged and listless in everything. I 
gave up the idea of competing for any distinction 
at the University, comforting myself with the 
thought that I could not fail in the examination 
for the ordinary degree. The day before the ex- 
amination began I fell ill; and when at last I 
recovered, after a narrow escape from death, I 
turned my back upon Oxford, and went down 
alone to visit the old place where I had been born, 
feeble in health and profoundly disgusted and dis- 
couraged. I was twenty-one years of age, master 
of myself and of my fortune ; but so deeply 
had the long chain of small unlucky circumstances 
affected me, that I thought seriously of shutting 
myself up from the world to live the life of a hermit, 
and to die as soon as possible. Death seemed the 
only cheerful possibility in my existence, and my 
thoughts soon dwelt upon it altogether. 

I had never shown any wish to return to my 
own home since I had been taken away as a little 
boy, and no one had ever pressed me to do so. 
The place had been kept in order after a fashion, 
and did not seem to have suffered during the fifteen 
years or more of my absence. Nothing earthly 
could affect those old grey walls that had fought 
the elements for so many centuries. The garden 



244 WANDERING GHOSTS 

was more wild than I remembered it ; the marble 
causeways about the pools looked more yellow and 
damp than of old, and the whole place at first 
looked smaller. It was not until I had wandered 
about the house and grounds for many hours that 
I realised the huge size of the home where I was to 
live in solitude. Then I began to delight in it, 
and my resolution to live alone grew stronger. 

The people had turned out to welcome me, of 
course, and I tried to recognise the changed faces of 
the old gardener and the old housekeeper, and to call 
them by name. My old nurse I knew at once. She 
had grown very grey since she hear 1 the coffins fall in 
the nursery fifteen years before, but her strange eyes 
were the same, and the look in them woke all my 
old memories. She went over the house with me. 

" And how is the Woman of the Water ? " I 
asked, trying to laugh a little. "Does she still 
play in the moonlight ? " 

" She is hungry," answered the Welshwoman, in 
a low voice. 

"Hungry ? Then we will feed her." I laughed. 
But old Judith turned very pale, and looked at me 
strangely. 

" Feed her ? Ay — you will feed her well," 
she muttered, glancing behind her at the ancient 
housekeeper, who tottered after us with feeble 
steps through the halls and passages. 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 245 

I did not think much of her words. She had 
always talked oddly, as Welshwomen will, and 
though I was very melancholy I am sure I was 
not superstitious, and I was certainly not timid. 
Only, as in a far-offc' dream, I seemed to see her 
standing with the light in her hand and muttering, 
"The heavy one — all of lead," and then leading 
a httle boy through the long corridors to see his 
father lying dead in a great easy-chair before a 
smouldering fire. So we went over the house, and 
I chose the rooms where I would live ; and the 
servants I had brought with me ordered and 
arranged everything, and I had no more trouble. 
I did not care what they did, provided I was left 
in peace, and was not expected to give directions ; 
for I was more listless than ever, owing to the 
effects of my illness at college. 

I dined in solitary state, and the melancholy 
grandeur of the vast old dining-room pleased 
me. Then T went to the room I had selected 
for my study, and sat down in a deep chair, 
under a bright light, to think, or to let my 
thoughts meander through labyrinths of theii' 
own choosing, utterly indifferent to the course 
they might take. 

The tall windows of the room opened to the 
level of the ground upon the terrace a,t the 
head of the garden. It was in the end of July, 



246 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and everything was open, for the weather was 
warm. As I sat alone I heard the unceasing 
plash of the great fountains, and I fell to think- 
ing of the Woman of the Water. I rose, and 
went out into the still night, and sat down upon 
a seat on the terrace, between two gigantic Italian 
flower-pots. The air was deliciously soft and 
sweet with the smell of the flowers, and the 
garden was more congenial to me than the house. 
Sad people always like running water and the 
sound of it at night, though I cannot tell why. 
I sat and listened in the gloom, for it was dark 
below, and the pale moon had not yet climbed 
over the hills in front of me, though all the air 
above was light with her rising beams. Slowly 
the white halo in the eastern sky ascended in 
an arch above the wooded crests, making the 
outlme of the mountains more intensely black 
by contrast, as though the head of some great 
white saint were rising from behind a screen 
in a vast cathedral, throwing misty glories from 
below. I longed to see the moon herself, and 
I tried to reckon the seconds before she must 
appear. Then she sprang up quickly, and in 
a moment more hung round and perfect in the 
sky. I gazed at her, and then at the floating 
spray of the tall fountains, and down at the 
pools, where the water-lilies were rocking softly 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 247 

in their sleep on the velvet surface of the moon- 
lit water. Just then a great swan floated out 
silently into the midst of the basin, and wreathed 
his long neck, catching the water in his broad 
bill, and scattering showers of diamonds around 
him. 

Suddenly, as I gazed, something came between 
me and the light. I looked up instantly. Be- 
tween me and the round disc of the moon rose 
a luminous face of a woman, with great strange 
eyes, and a woman's mouth, full and soft, but 
not smiling, hooded in black, staring at me as 
I sat still upon my bench. She was close to me 
— so close that I could have touched her with 
my hand. But I was transfixed and helpless. 
She stood still for a moment, but her expression 
did not change. Then she passed swiftly away, 
and my hair stood up on my head, while the cold 
breeze from her white dress was wafted to my 
temples as she moved. The moonlight, shining 
through the tossing spray of the fountain, made 
traceries of shadow on the gleaming folds of 
her garments. In an instant she was gone, 
and I was alone. 

I was strangely shaken by the vision, and 
some time passed before I could rise to my feet, 
for I was still weak from my illness, and the 
sight I had seen would have startled any one. 



248 WANDERING GHOSTS 

I did not reason with myself, for I was certain 
that I had looked on the unearthly, and no argu- 
ment could have destroyed that belief. At last 
I got up and stood unsteadily, gazing in the 
direction in which I thought the figure had gone ; 
but there was nothing to be seen — nothing but 
the broad paths, the tall, dark evergreen hedges, 
the tossing water of the fountains and the smooth 
pool below. I fell back upon the seat and recalled 
the face I had seen. Strange to say, now that 
the first impression had passed, there was nothing 
startling in the recollection ; on the contrary, I 
felt that I was fascinated by the face, and would 
give anything to see it again. I could retrace 
the beautiful straight features, the long dark 
eyes and the wonderful mouth, most exactly in 
my mind, and, when I had reconstructed every 
detail from memory, I knew that the whole was 
beautiful, and that I should love a woman with 
such a face. 

" I wonder whether she is the Woman of the 
Water I " I said to myself. Then rising once more 
I wandered down the garden, descending one short 
flight of steps after another, from terrace to terrace 
by the edge of the marble basins, through the sha- 
dow and through the moonlight ; and I crossed the 
water by the rustic bridge above the artificial 
grotto, and climbed slowly up again to the highest 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 249 

terrace by the other side. The air seemed sweeter, 
and I was very cahn, so that I think I smiled to my- 
self as I walked, as though a new happiness had come 
to me. The woman's face seemed always before me, 
and the thought of it gave me an unwonted thrill 
of pleasure, unlike anything I had ever felt before. 

I turned, as I reached the house, and looked 
back upon the scene. It had certainly changed in 
the short hour since I had come out, and my mood 
had changed with it. Just like my luck, I thought, 
to fall in love with a ghost ! But in old times I 
would have sighed, and gone to bed more sad than 
ever, at such a melancholy conclusion. To-night I 
felt happy, almost for the first time in my life. 
The gloomy old study seemed cheerful when I went 
in. The old pictures on the walls smiled at me, 
and I sat down in my deep chair with a new and 
delightful sensation that I was not alone. The 
idea of having seen a ghost, and of feeling much 
the better for it, was so absurd that I laughed 
softly, as I took up one of the books I had brought 
with me and began to read. 

That impression did not wear off. I slept peace- 
fully, and in the morning I threw open my windows 
to the summer air, and looked down at the garden, 
at the stretches of green and at the coloured flower- 
beds, at the circling swallows, and at the bright 
water. 



250 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" A man might make a paradise of this place," I 
exclaimed. " A man and a woman together ! " 

From that day the old castle no longer seemed 
gloomy, and I think I ceased to be sad ; for some 
time, too, I began to take an interest in the place, 
and to try and make it more alive. I avoided my 
old Welsh nurse, lest she should damp my hu- 
mour with some dismal prophecy, and recall my old 
self by bringing back memories of my dismal child- 
hood. But what I thought of most was the ghostly 
figure I had seen in the garden that first night after 
my arrival. I went out every evening and wan- 
dered through the walks and paths ; but, try as I 
might, I did not see my vision again. At last, 
after many days, the memory grew more faint, and 
my old moody nature gradually overcame the tem- 
porary sense of lightness I had experienced. The 
summer turned to autumn^ and I grew restless. It 
began to rain. The dampness pervaded the gar- 
dens, and the outer halls smelled musty, like tombs ; 
the grey sky oppressed me intolerably. I left the 
place as it was and went abroad, determined to try 
anything which might possibly make a second 
break in the monotonous melancholy from which 
I suffered. 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 251 



CHAPTER H 

Most people would be struck by the utter insignifi- 
cance of the small events which, after the death of 
my parents influenced my life and made me un- 
happy. The gruesome forebodings of a Welsh 
nurse^ which chanced to be realised by an odd coin- 
cidence of events, should not seem enough to change 
the nature of a child, and to direct the bent of his 
character in after years. The little disappointments 
of schoolboy life, and the somewhat less childish 
ones of an uneventful and undistinguished aca- 
demic career, should not have sufficed to turn me 
out at one-and-twenty years of age a melancholic, 
listless idler. Some weakness of my own character 
may have contributed to the result, but in a greater 
degree it was due to my having a reputation for 
bad luck. However, I will not try to analyse the 
causes of my state, for I should satisfy nobody, 
least of all myself. Still less will I attempt to ex- 
plain why I felt a temporary revival of my spirits 
after my adventure in the garden. It is certain 
that I was in love with the face I had seen, and 
that I longed to see it again ; that I gave up all 
hope of a second visitation, grew more sad than 
ever, packed up my traps, and finally went abroad. 
But in my dreams I went back to my home, and it 



252 WANDERING GHOSTS 

always appeared to me sunny and bright, as it had 
looked on that summer's morning after I had seen 
the woman by the fountain. 

I went to Paris. I went further, and wandered 
about Germany. I tried to amuse myself, and 
I failed miserably. With the aimless whims of an 
idle and useless man, came all sorts of suggestions 
for good resolutions. One day I made up my mind 
that I would go and bury myself in a German uni- 
versity for a time, and live simply like a poor stu- 
dent. I started with the intention of going to 
Leipzic, determined to stay there until some event 
should direct my life or change my humour, or 
make an end of me altogether. The express train 
stopped at some station of which I did not know the 
name. It was dusk on a winter's afternoon, and 
I peered through the thick glass from my seat. 
Suddenly another train came gliding in from the 
opposite direction, and stopped alongside of ours. 
I looked at the carriage which chanced to be abreast 
of mine, and idly read the black letters painted on 
a white board swinging from the brass handrail : 
" Berlin — Cologne — Paris." Then I looked 
up at the window above. I started violently and 
the cold perspiration broke out upon my forehead, 
In the dim light, not six feet from where I sat, I 
saw the face of a woman, the face I loved, the 
straight, fine features, the strange eyes, the wonder- 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 253 

ful mouth, the pale skin. Her head-dress was a 
dark veil which seemed to be tied about her head 
and passed over the shoulders under her chin. As 
I threw down the window and knelt on the cushioned 
seat, leaning far out to get a better view, a long 
whistle screamed through the station, followed by 
a quick series of dull, clanking sounds ; then there 
was a slight jerk, and my train moved on. Luckily 
the window was narrow, being the one over the seat, 
beside the door, or I believe I would have jumped 
out of it then and there. In an instant the speed 
increased, and I was being carried swiftly away 
in the opposite direction from the thing I loved. 

For a quarter of an hour I lay back in my 
place, stunned by the suddenness of the appari- 
tion. At last one of the two other passengers, a 
large and gorgeous captain of the White Konigs- 
berg Cuirassiers, civilly but firmly suggested that 
I might shut my window, as the evening was cold. 
I did so, with an apology, and relapsed into si- 
lence. The train ran swiftly on for a long time, 
and it was already beginning to slacken speed 
before entering another station when I roused 
myself, and made a sudden resolution. As the 
carriage stopped before the brilliantly lighted plat- 
form, I seized my belongings, saluted my fellow- 
passengers, and got out, determmed to take the 
first express back to Paris. 



254 WANDERING GHOSTS 

This time the circumstances of the vision had 
been so natural that it did not strike me that there 
was anything unreal about the face, or about the 
woman to whom it belonged. I did not try to ex- 
plain to myself how the face, and the woman, 
could be travelling by a fast train from Berlin to 
Paris on a winter's afternoon, when both were in 
my mind indelibly associated with the moonlight 
and the fountains in my own English home. I 
certainly would not have admitted that I had been 
mistaken in the dusk, attributing to what I had 
seen a resemblance to my former vision which did 
not really exist. There was not the slightest 
doTlbt in my mind, and I was positively sure that 
I had again seen the face I loved. I did not hesi- 
tate, and in a few hours I was on my way back to 
Paris. I could not help reflecting on my ill-luck. 
Wandering as I had been for many months, it 
might as easily have chanced that I should be 
travelling in the same train with that woman, in- 
stead of going the other way. But my luck was 
destined to turn for a time. 

I searched Paris for several days. I dined at 
the principal hotels ; I went to the theatres ; I 
rode in the Bois de Boulogne in the morning, and 
picked up an acquaintance, whom I forced to drive 
with me in the afternoon. I went to mass at the 
Madeleine, and I attended the services at the Eng- 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 255 

lish Church. I hung about the Louvre and Notre 
Dame. I went to Versailles. I spent hours in 
parading the Rue de Rivoli, in the neighbourhood 
of Meur ice's corner, where foreigners pass and re- 
pass from morning till night. At last I received 
an invitation to a reception at the English Em- 
bassy. I went, and I found what I had sought 
so long. 

There she was, sitting by an old lady in grey 
satin and diamonds, who had a wrinkled but 
kindly face and keen grey eyes that seemed to 
take in everything they saw, with very little in- 
clination to give much in return. But I did not 
notice the chaperon. I saw only the face that had 
haunted me for months, and in the excitement of 
the moment I walked quickly towards the pair, 
forgetting such a trifle as the necessity for an in- 
troduction. 

She was far more beautiful than I had thought, 
but I never doubted that it was she herself and 
no other. Vision or no vision before, this was the 
reality, and I knew it. Twice her hair had been 
covered, now at last I saw it, and the added beauty 
of its magnificence glorified the whole woman. It 
was rich hair, fine and abundant, golden, with deep 
ruddy tints in it like red bronze spun fine. There 
was no ornament in it, not a rose, not a thread of 
gold, and I felt that it needed nothing to enhance 



256 WANDERING GHOSTS 

its splendour ; nothing but her pale face, her dark 
strange eyes, and her heavy eyebrows. I could 
see that she was slender, too, but strong withal, as 
she sat there quietly gazing at the moving scene 
in the midst of the brilliant lights and the hum of 
perpetual conversation. 

I recollected the detail of introduction in time, 
and turned aside to look for my host. I found 
him at last. I begged him to present me to the 
two ladies, pointing them out to him at the same 
time. 

" Yes — uh — by all means — uh — " replied his 
Excellency, with a pleasant smile. He evidently 
had no idea of my name, which was not to be 
wondered at. 

" I am Lord Cairngorm," I observed. 

" Oh — by all means," answered the Ambas- 
sador, with the same hospitable smile. " Yes — 
uh — the fact is, I must try and find out who they 
are ; such lots of people, you know.' 

" Oh, if you will present me, I will try and find 
out for you," said I, laughing. 

" Ah, yes — so kind of you — come along," 
said my host. 

We threaded the crowd, and in a few minutes 
we stood before the two ladies. 

" 'Lowmintrduce L'd Cairngorm," he said ; 
then, adding quickly to me, *^Come and dine 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 257 

to-morrow, won't you ? " he glided away with, his 
pleasant smile, and disappeared in the crowd. 

I sat down beside the beautiful girl, conscious 
that the eyes of the duenna were upon me. 

^^'I think we have been very near meeting 
before," I remarked, by way of opening the 
conversation. 

My companion turned her eyes full upon me 
with an air of enquiry. She evidently did not 
recall my face, if she had ever seen me. 

"Really — I cannot remember," she observed, 
in a low and musical voice. "When?" 

" In the first place, you came down from 
Berlin by the express, ten days ago. I was going 
the other way, and our carriages stopped opposite 
each other. I saw you at the window." 

" Yes — we came that way, but I do not 
remember — " She hesitated. 

"Secondly," I continued, "I was sitting alone 
in my garden last summer — near the end of 
July — do you remember ? You must have 
wandered in there through the park ; you came 
up to the house and looked at me — " 

" Was that you ? " she asked, in evident surprise. 
Then she broke into a laugh. "I told everybody 
I had seen a ghost ; there had never been any 
Cairngorms in the place since the memory of man. 
We left the next day, and never heard that you 



258 WANDERING GHOSTS 

had come there ; indeed, I did not know the castle 
belonged to you." 

" Where were you staying ? " I asked. 

" Where ? Why, with my aunt, where I always 
stay. She is your neighbour, since it is you." 

"1 — beg your pardon — but then — is your 
aunt Lady Bluebell ? I did not quite catch — " 

" Don't be afraid. She is amazingly deaf. Yes. 
She is the relict of my beloved uncle, the sixteenth 
or seventeenth Baron Bluebell — I forget exactly 
how many of them there have been. And I — do 
you know who I am ? " She laughed, well knowing 
that I did not. 

"No," I answered frankly. "I have not the 
least idea. I asked to be introduced because I 
recognised you. Perhaps — perhaps you are a 
Miss Bluebell?" 

" Considering that you are a neighbour, I will tell 
you who I am," she answered. " No ; I am of the 
tribe of Bluebells, but my name is Lammas, and I 
have been given to understand that I was chris- 
tened Margaret. Being a floral family, they call 
me Daisy. A dreadful American man once told 
me that my aunt was a Bluebell and that I was a 
Harebell — with two I's and an e — because my 
hair is so thick. I warn you, so that you may 
avoid making such a bad pun." 

"Do I look like a man who makes puns?" I 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 259 

asked, being very conscious of my melancholy face 
and sad looks. 

Miss Lammas eyed me critically. 

" No ; you have a mournful temperament. I 
think I can trust you/' she answered. "• Do you 
think you could communicate to my aunt the fact 
that you are a Cairngorm and a neighbour ? I am 
sure she would like to know." 

I leaned towards the old lady, inflating my 
lungs for a yell. But Miss Lammas stopped me. 

" That is not of the slightest use," she remarked. 
" You can write it on a bit of paper. She is 
utterly deaf." 

" I have a pencil," I answered, " but I have no 
paper. Would my cuff do, do you think ? " 

" Oh yes ! " replied Miss Lammas, with alacrity ; 
" men often do that." 

I wrote on my cuff : " Miss Lammas wishes me 
to explain that I am your neighbour. Cairngorm." 
Then I held out my arm before the old lady's nose. 
She seemed perfectly accustomed to the proceeding, 
put up her glasses, read the words, smiled, nodded, 
and addressed me in the unearthly voice peculiar 
to people who hear nothing. 

'^ I knew your grandfather very well," she said. 
Then she smiled and nodded to me again, and to 
her niece, and relapsed into silence. 

" It is all right," remarked Miss Lammas. 



260 WANDERING GHOSTS 

"Aunt Bluebell knows she is deaf^ and does not 
say much, like the parrot. You see, she knew your 
grandfather. How odd, that we should be neigh- 
bours ! Why have we never met before ? " 

" If you had told me you knew my grandfather 
when you appeared in the garden, I should not 
have been in the least surprised," I answered 
rather irrelevantly. " I really thought you were 
the ghost of the old fountain. How in the world 
did you come there at that hour ? " 

"We were a large party, and we went out for 
a walk. Then we thought we should like to see 
what your park was like in the moonlight, and so 
we trespassed. I got separated from the rest, and 
came upon you by accident, just as I was admiring 
the extremely ghostly look of your house, and won- 
dering whether anybody would ever come and live 
there again. It looks like the castle of Macbeth, or a 
scene from the opera. Do you know anybody here ? " 

" Hardly a soul. Do you ? " 

" No. Aunt Bluebell said it was our duty to 
come. It is easy for her to go out ; she does not 
bear the burden of the conversation." 

" I am sorry you find it a burden," said I. 
" Shall I go away ? " 

Miss Lammas looked at me with a sudden grav- 
ity in her beautiful eyes, and there was a sort of 
hesitation about the lines of her full, soft mouth. 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 261 

"No/' she said at last, quite simply, "don't go 
away. We may like each other, if you stay a 
little lono;er — and we ous-ht to because we are 
neighbours in the country." 

I suppose I ought to have thought Miss Lammas 
a very odd girl. There is, indeed, a sort of free- 
masonry between people who discover that they 
live near each other, and that they ought to have 
known each other before. But there was a sort 
of unexpected frankness and simplicity in the girl's 
amusing manner which would have struck any one 
else as being singular, to say the least of it. To 
me, however, it all seemed natural enough. I had 
dreamed of her face too long not to be utterly 
happy when I met her at last, and could talk to 
her as much as I pleased. To me, the man of ill- 
luck in everything, the whole meeting seemed too 
good to be true. I felt again that strange sensa- 
tion of lightness which I had experienced after I 
had seen her face in the garden. The great rooms 
seemed brighter, life seemed worth living; my 
sluggish, melancholy blood ran faster, and filled 
me with a new sense of strength. I said to myself 
that without this woman I was but an imperfect 
being, but that with her I could accomplish every- 
thing to which I should set my hand. Like the 
great Doctor, when he thought he had cheated 
Mephistopheles at last, I could have cried aloud to 



262 WANDERING GHOSTS 

the fleeting moment, Venveile dock du hist so 
schon ! 

"Are you always gay?" I asked suddenly. 
" How happy you must be ! " 

" The days would sometimes seem very long if I 
were gloomy," she answered thoughtfully. " Yes, 
I think I find Hfe very pleasant, and I tell it so." 

" How can you ' tell life ' anything ? " I en- 
quired. " If I could catch my life and talk to it, 
I would abuse it prodigiously, I assure you." 

'' I dare say. You have a melancholy temper. 
You ought to live out of doors, dig potatoes, make 
hay, shoot, hunt, tumble into ditches, and come 
home muddy and hungry for dinner. It would be 
much better for you than moping in your rook 
tower, and hating everything." 

"It is rather lonely down there," I murmured 
apologetically, feeling that Miss Lammas was quite 
right. 

" Then marry, and quarrel with your wife," 
she laughed. "Anything is better than being 
alone." 

"I am a very peaceable person. I never quarrel 
with anybody. You can try it. You will find it 
quite impossible." 

"Will you let me try?" she asked, still smiling. 

" By all means — especially if it is to be only a 
preliminary canter," I answered rashly. 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 263 

" What do you mean ? " she enquired, turning 
quickly upon me. 

" Oh — nothing. You might try my paces with 
a view to quarrelling in the future. I cannot im- 
agine how you are going to do it. You will have 
to resort to immediate and direct abuse." 

" No. I will only say that if you do not like 
your life, it is your own fault. How can a man of 
your age talk of being melancholy, or of the hollo w- 
ness of existence ? Are you consumptive ? Are 
you subject to hereditary insanity ? Are you deaf, 
like Aunt Bluebell ? Are you poor, like — lots of 
people ? Have you been crossed in love ? Have 
you lost the world for a woman, or any particular 
woman for the sake of the world ? Are you feeble- 
minded, a cripple, an outcast ? Are you — repuls- 
ively ugly?" She laughed again. " Is there any 
reason in the world why you should not enjoy all 
you have got in life ? " 

" No. There is no reason whatever, except that 
I am dreadfully unlucky, especially in small 
things." 

" Then try big things, just for a change," sug- 
gested Miss Lammas. " Try and get married, for 
instance, and see how it turns out." 

" If it turned out badly, it would be rather 
serious." 

" Not half so serious as it is to abuse everything 



264 WANDERING GHOSTS 

unreasonably. If abuse is your particular talent, 
abuse something that ought to be abused. Abuse 
the Conservatives — or the Liberals — it does not 
matter which, since they are always abusing each 
other. Make yourself felt by other people. You 
will like it, if they don't. It will make a man of 
you. Fill your mouth with pebbles, and howl at 
the sea, if you cannot do anything else. It did 
Demosthenes no end of good, you know. You 
will have the satisfaction of imitating a great 
man." 

" Really, Miss Lammas, I think the list of inno- 
cent exercises you propose — " 

" Very well — if you don't care for that sort of 
thing, care for some other sort of thing. Care for 
something, or hate something. Don't be idle. 
Life is short, and though art may be long, plenty 
of noise answers nearly as well." 

" I do care for something — I mean somebody," 
I said. 

" A woman ? Then marry her. Don't hesitate." 

" I do not know whether she would marry me," 
I replied. " I have never asked her." 

" Then ask her at once," answered Miss Lammas. 
" I shall die happy if I feel I have persuaded a 
melancholy fellow-creature to rouse himself to 
action. Ask her, by all means, and see what she 
says. If she does not accept you at once, she may 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 265 

take you the next time. Meanwhile, you will have 
entered for the race. If you lose, there are the 
' All-aged Trial Stakes/ and the ' Consolation 
Race.' " 

" And plenty of selling races into the bargain. 
Shall I take you at your word, Miss Lammas?" 

" I hope you will," she answered. 

" Since you yourself advise me, I will. Miss 
Lammas, will you do me the honour to marry me ?" 

For the first time in my life the blood rushed to 
my head and my sight swam. I cannot tell why I 
said it. It would be useless to try to explain the 
extraordinary fascination the girl exercised over 
me, or the still more extraordinary feeling of inti- 
macy with her which had grown in me during that 
half-hour. Lonely, sad, unlucky as I had been all 
my life, I was certainly not timid, nor even shy. 
But to propose to marry a woman after half an 
hour's acquaintance was a piece of madness of 
which I never believed myself capable, and of which 
I should never be capable again, could I be placed 
in the same situation. It was as though my whole 
being had been changed in a moment by magic — 
by the white magic of her nature brought into con- 
tact with mine. The blood sank back to my heart, 
and a moment later I found myself staring at her 
with anxious eyes. To my amazement she was as 
calm as ever, but her beautiful mouth smiled, and 



266 WANDERING GHOSTS 

there was a mischievous light in her dark-brown 
eyes. 

" Fairly caught/' she answered. " For an in- 
dividual who pretends to be listless and sad you are 
not lacking in humour. I had really not the least 
idea what you were going to say. \Youldn't it be 
singularly awkward for you if I had said ' Yes ' ? 
I never saw anybody begin to practise so sharply 
what was preached to him — with so very little 
loss of time ! " 

"You probably never met a man who had 
dreamed of you for seven months before being 
introduced." 

" No, I never did," she answered gaily. "It 
smacks of the romantic. Perhaps you are a roman- 
tic character after all. I should think you were, 
if I believed you. Very well ; you have taken my 
advice, entered for a Stranger's Race and lost it. 
Try the All-aged Trial Stakes. You have another 
cuff, and a pencil. Propose to Aunt Bluebell ; she 
would dance with astonishment, and she might 
recover her hearing." 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 267 



CHAPTER III 

That was how I first asked Margaret Lammas 
to be my wife, and I will agree with any one who 
says I behaved very foolishly. But I have not 
repented of it, and I never shall. I have long ago 
understood that I was out of my mind that evening, 
but I think my temporary insanity on that occasion 
has had the effect of making me a saner man ever 
since. Her manner turned my head, for it was so 
different from what I had expected. To hear this 
lovely creature, who, in my imagination, was a 
heroine of romance, if not of tragedy, talking fa- 
miliarly and laughing readily was more than my 
equanimity could bear, and I lost my head as well 
as my heart. But when I went back to England 
in the spring, I went to make certain arrangements 
at the Castle — certain changes and improvements 
which would be absolutely necessary. I had won 
the race for which I had entered myself so rashly, 
and we were to be married in June. 

Whether the change was due to the orders I had 
left with the gardener and the rest of the servants, 
or to my own state of mind, I cannot tell. At all 
events, the old place did not look the same to me 
when I opened my window on the morning after 
my arrival. There were the grey walls below me, 



268 WANDERING GHOSTS 

and the grey turrets flanking the huge building ; 
there were the fountains, the marble causeways, 
the smooth basins, the tall box hedges, the water- 
lilies and the swans, just as of old. But there was 
something else there, too — something in the air, 
in the water, and in the greenness that I did not 
recognise — a light over everything by which 
everything was transfigured. The clock in the 
tower struck seven, and the strokes of the ancient 
bell sounded like a wedding chime. The air sang 
with the thrilling treble of the song-birds, with the 
silvery music of the plashing water, and the softer 
harmony of the leaves stirred by the fresh morning 
wind. There was a smell of new-mown hay from 
the distant meadows, and of blooming roses from 
the beds below, wafted up together to my window. 
I stood in the pure sunshine and drank the air and 
all the sounds and the odours that were in it ; and 
I looked down at my garden and said, " It is Para- 
dise, after all. I think the men of old were right 
when they called heaven a garden, and Eden a gar- 
den inhabited by one man and one woman, the 
Earthly Paradise. 

I turned away, wondering what had become 
of the gloomy memories I had always associated 
with my home. I tried to recall the impression 
of my nurse's horrible prophecy before the death 
of my parents — an impression which hitherto 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 269 

had been vivid enough. I tried to remember 
my own self, my dejection, my listlessness, my 
bad luck, and my petty disappointments. I en- 
deavoured to force myself to think as I used 
to think, if only to satisfy myself that I had 
not lost my individuality. But I succeeded in 
none of these efforts. I was a different man, a 
changed being, incapable of sorrow, of ill-luck, 
or of sadness. My life had been a dream, not 
evil, but infinitely gloomy and hopeless. It was 
now a reality, full of hope, gladness, and all 
manner of good. My home had been like a 
tomb; to-day it was Paradise. My heart had 
been as though it had not existed; to-day it 
beat with strength and youth, and the certainty 
of realised happiness. I revelled in the beauty 
of the world, and called loveliness out of the 
future to enjoy it before time should bring it 
to me, as a traveller in the plains looks up to 
the mountains, and already tastes the cool air 
through the dust of the road. 

Here, I thought, we will live and live for years. 
There we will sit by the fountain towards even- 
ing and in the deep moonlight. Down those 
paths we will wander together. On those 
benches we will rest and talk. Among those east- 
ern hills we will ride through the soft twilight, 
and in the old house we will tell tales on winter 



270 WANDERING GHOSTS 

nights, when the logs burn high, and the holly 
berries are red, and the old clock tolls out the 
dying year. On these old steps, in these dark 
passages and stately rooms, there will one day 
be the sound of little pattering feet, and laugh- 
ing child-vcices will ring up to the vaults of the 
ancient hall. Those tiny footsteps shall not be 
slow and sad as mine were, nor shall the child- 
ish words be spoken in an awed whisper. No 
gloomy Welshwoman shall people the dusky cor- 
ners with weird horrors, nor utter horrid proph- 
ecies of death and ghastly things. All shall 
be young, and fresh, and joyful, and happy, 
and we will turn the old luck again, and forget 
that there was ever any sadness. 

So I thought, as I looked out of my window 
that morning and for many mornings after that, 
and every day it all seemed more real than ever 
before, and much nearer. But the old nurse 
looked at me askance, and muttered odd sayings 
about the Woman of the Water. I cared little 
what she said, for I was far too happy. 

At last the time came near for the wedding. 
Lady Bluebell and all the tribe of Bluebells, as 
Margaret called them, were at Bluebell Grange, 
for we had determined to be married in the 
country, and to come straight to the Castle 
afterwards. We cared little for travelling, and 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 271 

not at all for a crowded ceremony at St. George's in 
Hanover Square, with all the tiresome formalities 
afterwards. I used to ride over to the Grange every 
day, and very often Margaret would come with 
her aunt and some of her cousins to the Castle. 
I was suspicious of my own taste, and was only 
too glad to let her have her way about the alter- 
ations and improvements in our home. 

We were to be married on the thirtieth of 
July, and on the evening of the twenty-eighth 
Margaret drove over with some of the Bluebell 
party. In the long summer twilight we all went 
out into the garden. Naturally enough, Margaret 
and I were left to ourselves, and we wandered 
down by the marble basins. 

" It is an odd coincidence," I said ; " it was on 
this very night last year that I first saw you." 

"Considering that it is the month of July," 
answered Margaret, with a laugh, '' and that we 
have been here almost every day, I don't think 
the coincidence is so extraordinary, after all." 

" No, dear," said I, " I suppose not. I don't 
know why it struck me. We shall very likely 
be here a year from to-day, and a year from that. 
The odd thing, when I think of it, is that you should 
be here at all. But my luck has turned. I ought 
not to think anything odd that happens now that 
I have you. It is all sure to be good." 



272 WANDEUING GHOSTS 

^^ A slight change in your ideas since that re- 
markable performance of yours in Paris," said 
Margarets. "Do you know, I thought you were 
the most extraordinary man I had ever met." 

" I thought you were the most charming woman 
I have ever seen. I naturally did not want to lose 
any time in frivolities. I took you at your word, 
I followed your advice, I asked you to marry me, 
and this is the delightful result — what's the 
matter ? " 

Margaret had started suddenly, and her hand 
tightened on my arm. An old woman was coming 
up the path, and was close to us before we saw 
her, for the moon had risen, and was shining full 
in our faces. The woman turned out to be my 
old nurse. 

" It's only old Judith, dear — don't be fright- 
ened," I said. Then I spoke to the Welshwoman : 
" What are you about, Judith ? Have you been 
feeding the Woman of the Water? " 

" Ay — when the clock strikes, Willie — my 
lord, I mean," muttered the old creature, drawing 
aside to let us pass, and fixing her strange eyes on 
Margaret's face. 

" What does she mean ? " asked Margaret, when 
we had gone by. 

" Nothing, darling. The old thing is mildly 
crazy, but she is a good soul." 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 273 

We went on in silence for a few moments, and 
came to the rustic bridge just above the artificial 
grotto through which the water ran out into the 
park, dark and swift in its narrow channel. 
We stopped, and leaned on the wooden rail. The 
moon was now behind us, and shone full upon the 
long vista of basins and on the huge walls and 
towers of the Castle above. 

" How proud you ought to be of such a grand 
old place ! " said Margaret, softly. 

" It is yours now, darling," I answered. " You 
have as good a right to love it as I — but I only 
love it because you are to live in it, dear." 

Her hand stole out and lay on mine, and we 
were both silent. Just then the clock began to 
strike far off in the tower. I counted the strokes 
— eight — nine — ten — eleven — I looked at my 
watch — twelve — thirteen — I laughed. The bell 
went on striking. 

" The old clock has gone crazy, like Judith," I 
exclaimed. Still it went on, note after note ring- 
ing out monotonously through the still air. We 
leaned over the rail, instinctively looking in the 
direction whence the sound came. On and on it 
went. I counted nearly a hundred, out of sheer 
curiosity, for I understood that something had 
broken and that the thing was running itself down. 

Suddenly there was a crack as of breaking wood. 



274 WANDERING GHOSTS 

a cry and a heavy splash, and I was alone, clinging 
to the broken end of the rail of the rustic bridge. 

I do not think I hesitated while my pulse beat 
twice. I sprang clear of the bridge into the black 
rushing water, dived to the bottom, came up again 
with empty hands, turned and swam downwards 
through the grotto in the thick darkness, plunging 
and diving at every stroke, striking my head and 
hands against jagged stones and sharp corners, 
clutching at last something in my fingers, and 
dragging it up with all my might. I spoke, I cried 
aloud, but there was no answer. I was alone in 
the pitchy blackness with my burden, and the 
house was five hundred yards away. Struggling 
still, I felt the ground beneath my feet, I saw a 
ray of moonlight — the grotto widened, and the 
deep water became a broad and shallow brook as I 
stumbled over the stones and at last laid Margaret's 
body on the bank in the park beyond. 

" Ay, Wilhe, as the clock struck ! " said the 
voice of Judith, the Welsh nurse, as she bent down 
and looked at the white face. The old woman 
must have turned back and followed us, seen the 
accident, and slipped out by the lower gate of the 
garden. " Ay," she groaned, " you have fed 
the Woman of the Water this night, Willie, while 
the clock was striking." 

I scarcely heard her as I knelt beside the lifeless 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 275 

body of the woman I loved, chafing the wet white 
temples, and gazing wildly into the wide-staring 
eyes. I remember only the first returning look of 
consciousness, the first heaving breath, the first 
movement of those dear hands stretching out 
towards me. 

That is not much of a story, you say. It is the 
story of my life. That is all. It does not pretend 
to be anything else. Old Judith says my luck 
turned on that summer's night, when I was 
struggling in the water to save all that was worth 
living for. A month later there was a stone bridge 
above the grotto, and Margaret and I stood on it, 
and looked up at the moonlit Castle, as we had 
done once before, and as we have done many times 
since. For all those things happened ten years ago 
last summer, and this is the tenth Christmas Eve 
we have spent together by the roaring logs in the 
old hall, talking of old times ; and every year there 
are more old times to talk of. There are curly- 
headed boys, too, with red-gold hair and dark- 
brown eyes like their mother's, and a little 
Margaret, with solemn black eyes like mine. Why 
could she not look like her mother, too, as well as 
the rest of them ? 

The world is very bright at this glorious Christ- 
mas time, and perhaps there is little use in calling 



276 WANDERING GHOSTS 

up the sadness of long ago, unless it be to make 
the jolly firelight seem more cheerful, the good 
wife's face look gladder, and to give the children's 
laughter a merrier ring, by contrast with all that 
is gone. Perhaps, too, some sad-faced, listless, 
melancholy youth, who feels that the world is very 
hollow, and that life is hke a perpetual funeral 
service, just as I used to feel myself, may take 
courage from my example, and having found the 
woman of his heart, ask her to marry him after 
half an hour's acquaintance. But, on the whole, 
I would not advise any man to marry, for the 
simple reason that no man will ever find a wife 
like mine, and being obliged to go further, he will 
necessarily fare worse. My wife has done miracles, 
but I will not assert that any other woman is able 
to follow her example. 

Margaret always said that the old place was 
beautiful, and that I ought to be proud of it. I 
dare say she is right. She has even more imagina- 
tion than I. But I have a good answer and a plain 
one, which is this — that all the beauty of the 
Castle comes from her. She has breathed upon it 
all, as the children blow upon the cold glass win- 
dow-panes in winter; and as their warm breath 
crystallises into landscapes from fairyland, full of 
exquisite shapes and traceries upon the blank sur- 
face, so her spirit has transformed every grey stone 



BY THE WATERS OF PARADISE 277 

of the old towers, every ancient tree and hedge in 
the gardens, every thought in my once melancholy 
self. All that was old is young, and all that was 
sad is glad, and I am the gladdest of all. What- 
ever heaven may be, there is no earthly paradise 
without woman, nor is there anywhere a place so 
desolate, so dreary, so unutterably miserable that a 
woman cannot make it seem heaven to the man 
she loves, and who loves her. 

I hear certain cynics laugh, and cry that all 
that has been said before. Do not laugh, my good 
cynic. You are too small a man to laugh at such 
a great thing as love. Prayers have been said 
before now by many, and perhaps you say yours, 
too. I do not think they lose anything by being 
repeated, nor you by repeating them. You say 
that the world is bitter, and full of the Waters of 
Bitterness. Love, and so live that you may be 
loved — the world will turn sweet for you, and 
you shall rest like me by the Waters of Paradise. 



/ 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 



THE DOLKS GHOST 

It was a terrible accident, and for one moment 
the splendid machinery of Cra^nston House got out 
of gear and stood still. The butler emerged from 
the retirement in which he spent his elegant lei- 
sure, two grooms of the chambers appeared simul- 
taneously from opposite directions, there were 
actually housemaids on the grand staircase, and 
those who remember the facts most exactly assert 
that Mrs. Pringle herself positively stood upon the 
landing. Mrs. Pringle was the housekeeper. As 
for the head nurse, the under nurse, and the nur- 
sery maid, their feelings cannot be described. The 
head nurse laid one hand upon the polished marble 
balustrade and stared stupidly before her, the un- 
der nurse stood rigid and pale, leaning against the 
polished marble wall, and the nursery-maid col- 
lapsed and sat down upon the polished marble step, 
just beyond the limits of the velvet carpet, and 
frankly burst into tears. 

The Lady Gwendolen Lancaster-Douglas-Scroop, 
youngest daughter of the ninth Duke of Cranston, 
and aged six years and three months, picked her- 
self up quite alone, and sat down on the third step 

281 



282 WANDERING GHOSTS 

from the foot of the grand staircase in Cranston 
House. 

" Oh ! " ejaculated the butler, and he disappeared 
again. 

" Ah ! " responded the grooms of the chambersj 
as they also went away. 

" It's only that doll," Mrs. Pringle was distinctly 
heard to say, in a tone of contempt. 

The under nurse heard her say it. Then the 
three nurses gathered round Lady Gwendolen and 
patted her, and gave her unhealthy things out of 
their pockets, and hurried her out of Cranston 
House as fast as they could, lest it should be found 
out upstairs that they had allowed the Lady Gwen- 
dolen Lancaster-Douglas-Scroop to tumble down 
the grand staircase with her doll in her arms. And 
as the doll was badly broken, the nursery-maid 
carried it, with the pieces, wrapped up in Lady 
Gwendolen's little cloak. It was not far to Hyde 
Park, and when they had reached a quiet place 
they took means to find out that Lady Gwendolen 
had no bruises. For the carpet was very thick 
and soft, and there was thick stuff under it to 
make it softer. 

Lady Gwendolen Douglas-Scroop sometimes 
yelled, but she never cried. It was because sh3 
had yelled that the nurse had allowed her to go 
downstairs alone with Nina, the doll, under one 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 283 

arm, while she steadied herself with her other 
hand on the balustrade, and trod upon the polished 
marble steps beyond the edge of the carpet. So 
she had fallen, and Nina had come to grief. 

When the nurses were quite sure that she was 
not hurt, they unwrapped the doll and looked 
at her in her turn. She had been a very beau- 
tiful doll, very large, and fair, and healthy, with 
real yellow hair, and eyelids that would open 
and shut over very grown-up dark eyes. More- 
over, when you moved her right arm up and 
down she said " Pa-pa," and when you moved 
the left she said " Ma-ma," very distinctly. 

" I heard her say ' Pa * when she fell," said 
the under nurse, who heard everything. "But 
she ought to have said ' Pa-pa.' " 

" That's because her arm went up when she 
hit the step," said the head nurse. "She'll say 
the other ' Pa ' when I put it down again." 

" Pa," said Nina, as her right arm was pushed 
down, and speaking through her broken face. It 
was cracked right across, from the upper corner 
of the forehead, with a hideous gash, through the 
nose and down to the little frilled collar of the 
pale green silk Mother Hubbard frock, and two 
little three-cornered pieces of porcelain had fallen out. 

" I'm sure it's a wonder she can speak at all, 
being all smashed," said the under nurse. 



284 WANDERING GHOSTS 

"You'll have to take her to Mr. Puckler," said 
her superior. " It's not far, and you'd better go 
at once." 

Lady Gwendolen was occupied in digging a 
hole in the ground with a little spade, and paid 
no attention to the nurses. 

" What are you doing ? " enquired the nursery- 
maid, looking on. 

" Nina's dead, and I'm diggin' her a grave," 
replied her ladyship thoughtfully. 

"Oh, she'll come to life again all right," said 
the nursery-maid. 

The under nurse wrapped Nina up again and 
departed. Fortunately a kind soldier, with very 
long legs and a very small cap, happened to be 
there ; and as he had nothing to do, he offered 
to see the under nurse safely to Mr. Puckler's 
and back. 

Mr. Bernard Puckler and his little daughter 
lived in a little house in a little alley, which 
led out off a quiet little street not very far from 
Belgrave Square. He was the great doll doctor, 
and his extensive practice lay in the most aristo- 
cratic quarter. He mended dolls of all sizes 
and ages, boy dolls and girl dolls, baby dolls 
in long clothes, and grown-up dolls in fashion- 
able gowns, talking dolls and dumb dolls, those 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 285 

that shut their eyes when they lay down, and 
those whose eyes had to be shut for them by 
means of a mysterious wire. His daughter Else 
was only just over twelve years old, but she was 
already very clever at mending dolls' clothes, and 
at doing their hah", which is harder than you 
might think, though the dolls sit quite still while 
it is being done. 

Mr. Puckler had originally been a German, but 
he had dissolved his nationality in the ocean of 
London many years ago, like a great many for- 
eigners. He still had one or two German friends, 
however, who came on Saturday evenings, and 
smoked with him and played picquet or " skat " 
with him for farthing points, and called him " Herr 
Doctor," which seemed to please Mr. Puckler very 
much. 

He looked older than he was, for his beard 
was rather long and ragged, his hair was griz- 
zled and thin, and he wore horn-rimmed spec- 
tacles. As for Else, she was a thin, pale child, 
very quiet and neat, with dark eyes and brown 
hair that was plaited down her back and tied 
with a bit of black ribbon. She mended the dolls' 
clothes and took the dolls back to their homes 
when they were quite strong again. 

The house was a little one, but too big for 
the two people who lived in it. There was a 



286 WANDERING GHOSTS 

small sitting-room on the street, and the work- 
shop was at the back, and there were three rooms 
upstairs. But the father and daughter lived most 
of their time in the workshop, because they were 
generally at work, even in the evenings. 

Mr. Puckler laid Nina on the table and looked 
at her a long time, till the tears began to fill his 
eyes behind the horn-rimmed spectacles. He was 
a very susceptible man, and he often fell in love 
with the dolls he mended, and found it hard to 
part with them when they had smiled at him 
for a few days. They were real little people 
to him, with characters and thoughts and feel- 
ings of their own, and he was very tender with 
them all. But some attracted him especially from 
the first, and when they were brought to him 
maimed and injured, their state seemed so piti- 
ful to him that the tears came easily. You must 
remember that he had lived among dolls during a 
great part of his life, and understood them. 

"How do you know that they feel nothing?" 
he went on to say to Else. "You must be gentle 
with them. It costs nothing to be kind to the 
little beings, and perhaps it makes a difference 
to them." 

And Else understood him, because she was a 
child, and she knew that she was more to him 
than all the dolls. 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 287 

He fell in love with Nina at first sight, perhaps 
because her beautiful brown glass eyes were some- 
thing like Else's own, and he loved Else first and 
best, with all his heart. And, besides, it was a very 
sorrowful case. Nina had evidently not been long 
in the world, for her complexion was perfect, her 
hair was smooth where it should be smooth, and 
curly where it should be curly, and her silk clothes 
were perfectly new. But across her face was that 
frightful gash, like a sabre-cut, deep and shadowy 
within, but clean and sharp at the edges. When 
he tenderly pressed her head to close the gaping 
wound, the edges made a fine grating sound, that 
was painful to hear, and the lids of the dark eyes 
quivered and trembled as though Nina were suffer- 
ing dreadfully. 

" Poor Nina ! '* he exclaimed sorrowfully. " But 
I shall not hurt you much, though you will take a 
long time to get strong." 

He always asked the names of the broken dolls 
when they were brought to him, and sometimes the 
people knew what the children called them, and told 
him. He liked "Nina" for a name. Altogether 
and in every way she pleased him more than any 
doll he had seen for many years, and he felt drawn 
to her, and made up his mind to make her per- 
fectly strong and sound, no matter how much 
labour it might cost him. 



288 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Mr. Puckler wcrked patiently a little at a time, 
and Else watched him. She could do nothing for 
poor Nina, whose clothes needed no mending. 
The longer the doll doctor worked, the more fond 
he became of the yellow hair and the beautiful 
brown glass eyes. He sometimes forgot all the 
other dolls that were waiting to be mended, lying 
side by side on a shelf, and sat for an hour gazing 
at Nina's face, while he racked his ingenuity for 
some new invention by which to hide even the 
smallest trace of the terrible accident. 

She was wonderfully mended. Even he was 
obliged to admit that ; but the scar was .still visible 
to his keen eyes, a very fine line right across the 
face, downwards from right to left. Yet all the 
conditions had been most favourable for a cure, 
since the cement had set quite hard at the first 
attempt and the weather had been fine and dry, 
which makes a great difference in a dolls' hospital. 

At last he knew that he could do no more, and 
the under nurse had already come twice to see 
whether the job was finished, as she coarsely ex- 
pressed it. 

" Nina is not quite strong yet," Mr. Puckler had 
answered each time, for he could not make up his 
mind to face the parting. 

And now he sat before the square deal table at 
which he worked, and Nina lay before him for the 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 289 

last time with a big brown paper box beside her. 
It stood there Hke her coffin, waiting for her, he 
thought. He must put her into it, and lay tissue 
paper over her dear face, and then put on the lid, 
and at the thought of tying the string his sight 
was dim with tears again. He was never to look 
into the glassy depths of the beautiful brown eyes 
any more, nor to hear the little wooden voice say 
"Pa-pa" and "Ma-ma." It was a very painful 
moment. 

In the vain hope of gaining time before the 
separation, he took up the little sticky bottles of 
cement and glue and gum and colour, looking at 
each one in turn, and then at Nina's face. And 
all his small tools lay there, neatly arranged in a 
row, but he knew that he could not use them 
again for Nina. She was quite strong at last, and 
in a country where there should be no cruel chil- 
dren to hurt her she might live a hundred years, 
with only that almost imperceptible line across her 
face to tell of the fearful thing that had befallen 
her on the marble steps of Cranston House. 

Suddenly Mr. Puckler's heart was quite full, 
and he rose abruptly from his seat and turned 
away. 

" Else," he said unsteadily, " you must do it for 
me. I cannot bear to see her go into the box." 

So he went and stood at the window with his 



290 WANDERING GHOSTS 

back turned, while Else did what he had not the 
heart to do. 

" Is it done ? " he asked, not turning round. 
"Then take her away, my dear. Put on your 
hat, and take her to Cranston House quickly, and 
when you are gone I will turn round." 

Else was used to her father's queer ways with 
the dolls, and though she had never seen him so 
much moved by a parting, she was not much sur- 
prised. 

"Come back quickly," he said, when he heard 
her hand on the latch. " It is growing late, and 
I should not send you at this hour. But I cannot 
bear to look forward to it any more." 

When Else was gone, he left the window and 
sat down in his place before the table again, to 
wait for the child to come back. He touched the 
place where Nina had lain, very gently, and he 
recalled the softly tinted pink face, and the glass 
eyes, and the ringlets of yellow hair, till he could 
almost see them. 

The evenings were long, for it was late in the 
spring. But it began to grow dark soon, and Mr. 
Puckler wondered why Else did not come back. 
She had been gone an hour and a half, and that 
was much longer than he had expected, for it 
was barely half a mile from Belgrave Square to 
Cranston House. He reflected that the child 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 291 

might have been kept waiting, but as the twi- 
light deepened he grew anxious, and walked up 
and down in the dim workshop, no longer think- 
ing of Nina, but of Else, his own living child, 
whom he loved. 

An undefinable, disquieting sensation came upon 
him by fine degrees, a chilliness and a faint stir- 
ring of his thin hair, joined with a wish to be in 
any company rather than to be alone much longer. 
It was the beginning of fear. 

He told himself in strong German-English that 
he was a foolish old man, and he began to feel 
about for the matches in the dusk. He knew just 
where they should be, for he always kept them in 
the same place, close to the little tin box that held 
bits of sealing-wax of various colours, for some 
kinds of mending. But somehow he could not find 
the matches in the gloom. 

Something had happened to Else, he was sure, 
and as his fear increased, he felt as though it 
might be allayed if he could get a light and see 
what time it was. Then he called himself a fool- 
ish old man again, and the sound of his own 
voice startled him in the dark. He could not 
find the matches. 

The window was grey still ; he might see what 
time it was if he went close to it, and he could go 
and get matches out of the cupboard afterwards. 



292 WANDERING GHOSTS 

He stood back from the table, to get out of the 
way of the chair, and began to cross the board 
floor. 

Something was following him in the dark. 
There was a small pattering, as of tiny feet upon 
the boards. He stopped and listened, and the 
roots of his hair tingled. It was nothing, and 
he was a foolish old man. He made two steps 
more, and he was sure that he heard the little 
pattering again. He turned his back to the win- 
dow, leaning against the sash so that the panes 
began to crack, and he faced the dark. Every- 
thing was quite still, and it smelt of paste and 
cement and wood-filings as usual. 

" Is that you. Else ? " he asked, and he was sur- 
prised by the fear in his voice. 

There was no answer in the room, and he held 
up his watch and tried to make out what time it 
was by the grey dusk that was just not darkness. 
So far as he could see, it was within two or three 
minutes of ten o'clock. He had been a long time 
alone. He was shocked, and frightened for Else, 
out in London, so late, and he almost ran across 
the room to the door. As he fumbled for the 
latch, he distinctly heard the running of the little 
feet after him. 

" Mice ! " he exclaimed feebly, just as he got the 
door open. 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 293 

He shut it quickly behind him, and felt as 
though some cold thing had settled on his back and 
were writhing upon him. The passage was quite 
dark, but he found his hat and v; as out in the alley 
In a moment, breathing more freely, and surprised 
to find how much light there still was in the open 
air. He could see the pavement clearly und^r his 
feet, and far off in the street to which the alley led 
he could hear the laughter and calls of children, 
playing some game out of doors. He wondered 
how he could have been so nervous, and for an in- 
stant he thought of going back into the house to 
wait quietly for Else. But instantly he felt that 
nervous fright of something stealing over him again. 
In any case it was better to walk up to Cranston 
House and ask the servants about the child. One 
of the women had perhaps taken a fancy to her, 
and was even now giving her tea and cake. 

He walked quickly to Belgrave Square, and then 
up the broad streets, Hstening as he went, whenever 
there was no other sound, for the tiny footsteps. 
But he heard nothing, and was laughing at himseK 
when he rang the servants' bell at the big house. 
Of course, the child must be there. 

The person who opened the door was quite an 
inferior person, for it was a back door, but affected 
the manners of the front, and stared at Mr. Puckler 
supercihously under the strong light. 



294 WANDERING GHOSTS 

No little girl had been seen, and lie knew 
" nothing about no dolls." 

" She is mj little girl, said Mr. Puckler tremu- 
lously, for all his anxiety was returning tenfold- 
" and I am afraid something has happened." 

The inferior person said rudely that '^ nothing 
could have happened to her in that house, becaufS 
she had not been there, which was a jolly good 
reason why;" and Mr. Puckler was obliged to admit 
that the man ought to know, as it was his business 
to keep the door and let people in. He wished to 
be allowed to speak to the under nurse, who knew 
him ; but the man was ruder than ever, and finally 
shut the door in his face. 

When the doll doctor was alone in the street, he 
steadied himself by the railing, for he felt as though 
he were breaking in two, just as some dolls break, 
in the middle of the backbone. 

Presently he knew that he must be doing some- 
thing to find Else, and that gave him strength. He 
began to walk as quickly as he could through the 
streets, following e'^ery highway and byway which 
his little girl might have taken on her errand. He 
also asked several policemen in vain if they had 
seen her, and most of them answered him kindly, for 
they saw that he was a sober man and in his right 
senses, and some of them had little girls of their own. 

It was one o'clock in the morning when he went 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 295 

up to his own door again, worn out and hopeless 
and broken-hearted. As he turned the key in the 
lock, his heart stood still, for he knew that he was 
awake and not dreaming, and that he really heard 
those tiny footsteps pattering to meet him inside 
the house along the passage. 

But he was too unhappy to be much frightened 
any more, and his heart went on again with a dull 
regular pain, that found its way all through him 
with every pulse. So he went in, and hung up his 
hat in the dark, and found the matches in the cup- 
board and the candlestick in its place in the corner. 

Mr. Puckler was so much overcome and so com- 
pletely worn out that he sat down in his chair be- 
fore the work-table and almost fainted, as his face 
dropped forward upon his folded hands. Beside 
him the solitary candle burned steadily with a low 
flame in the still warm air. 

"Else! Else!" he moaned against his yellow 
knuckles. And that was all he could say, and it 
was no relief to him. On the contrary, the very 
sound of the name was a new and sharp pain that 
pierced his ears and his head and his very soul. 
For every time he repeated the name it meant that 
little Else was dead, somewhere out in the streets 
of London in the dark. 

He was so terribly hurt that he did not even feel 
something pulling gently at the skirt of his old 



296 WANDERING GHOSTS 

coat, so gently that it was like the nibbling of a 
tiny mouse. He might have thought that it was 
really a mouse if he had noticed it. 

"Else! Else!" he groaned right against his hands. 

Then a cool breath stirred his thin hair, and the 
low flame of the one candle dropped down almost 
to a mere spark, not flickering as though a draught 
were going to blow it out, but just dropping down 
as if it were tired out. Mr. Puckler felt his hands 
stiffening with fright under his face ; and there was 
a faint rustling sound, like some small silk thing 
blown in a gentle breeze. He sat up straight, stark 
and scared, and a small wooden voice spoke in the 
stillness. 

"Pa-pa," it said, with a break between the syl- 
lables. 

Mr. Puckler stood up in a single jump, and 
his chair fell over backwards with a smashing 
noise upon the wooden floor. The candle had 
almost gone out. 

It was Nina's doll voice that had spoken, and 
he should have known it among the voices of a 
hundred other dolls. And yet there was something 
more in it, a little human ring, with a pitiful cry 
and a call for help, and the wail of a hurt child. 
Mr. Puckler stood up, stark and stiff, and tried to 
look round, but at first he could not, for he seemed 
to be frozen from head to foot. 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 297 

Then he made a great effort, and he raised one 
hand to each of his temples, and pressed his own 
head round as he would have turned a doll's. The 
candle was burning so low that it might as well 
have been out altogether, for any light it gave, and 
the room seemed quite dark at first. Then he saw 
something. He would not have believed that he 
could be more frightened than he had been just 
before that. But he was, and his knees shook, for 
he saw the doll standing in the middle of the floor, 
shining with a faint and ghostly radiance, her 
beautiful glassy brown eyes fixed on his. And 
across her face the very thin line of the break he 
had mended shone as though it were drawn in 
light with a fine point of white flame. 

Yet there was something more in the eyes, too ; 
there was something human, like Else's own, but 
as if only the doll saw him through thexU, and not 
Else. And there was enough of Else to bring back 
all his pain and to make him forget his fear. 

" Else ! my little Else ! " he cried aloud. 

The small ghost moved, and its doll-arm slowly 
rose and fell with a stiff, mechanical motion. 

" Pa-pa," it said. 

It seemed this time that there was even more of 
Else's tone echoing somewhere between the wooden 
notes that reached his ears so distinctly, and yet so 
far away. Else was calling him, he was sure. 



^t 



298 WANDERING GHOSTS 

His face was perfectly white in the gloom, but 
his knees did not shake any more, and he felt that 
he was less frightened. 

" Yes, child ! But where ? Where ? " he 
asked. "Where are you, Else?" 

"Pa-pa!" 

The syllables died away in the quiet room. 
There was a low rustling of silk, the glassy brown 
eyes turned slowly away, and Mr. Puckler heard 
the pitter-patter of the small feet in the bronze 
kid slippers as the figure ran straight to the door. 
Then the candle burned high again, the room was 
full of light, and he was alone. 

Mr. Puckler passed his hand over his eyes and 
looked about him. He could see everything quite 
clearly, and he felt that he must have been dream- 
ing, though he was standing instead of sitting 
down, as he should have been if he had iust waked 
up. The candle burned brightly now. There were 
the dolls to be mended, lying in a row with their 
toes up. The third one had lost her right shoe, 
and Else was making one. He knew that, and he 
was certainly not dreaming now. He had not been 
dreaming when he had come in from his fruitless 
search and had heard the doll's footsteps running to 
the door. He had not fallen asleep in his chair. How 
could he possibly have fallen asleep when his heart 
was breaking ? He had been awake all the time. 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 299 

He steadied himself, set the fallen chair upon 
its legs, and said to himself again very emphati- 
cally that he was a foolish old man. He ought to 
be out in the streets looking for his child, asking 
questions, and enquiring at the police stations, 
where all accidents were reported as soon as they 
were known, or at the hospitals. 

" Pa-pa ! " 

The longing, wailing, pitiful little wooden cry 
rang from the passage, outside the door, apd Mr. 
Puckler stood for an instant with white face, 
transfixed and rooted to the spot. A moment 
later his hand was on the latch. Then he was 
in the passage, with the light streaming from the 
open door behind him. 

Quite at the other end he saw the little phantom 
shining clearly in the shadow, and the right hand 
seemed to beckon to him as the arm rose and fell 
once more. He knew all at once that it had not 
come to frighten him but to lead him, and when it 
disappeared, and he walked boldly towards the 
door, he knew that it was in the street outside, 
waiting for him. He forgot that he was tired and 
had eaten no supper, and had walked many miles, 
for a sudden hope ran through and through him, 
like a golden stream of life. 

And sure enough, at the comer of the alley, and 
at the corner of the street, and out in Belgrave 



300 WANDERING GHOSTS 

Square, he saw the small ghost flitting before him. 
Sometimes it was only a shadow, where there was 
other light, but then the glare of the lamps made 
a pale green sheen on its little Mother Hubbard 
frock of silk ; and sometimes, where the streets 
were dark and silent, the whole figure shone out 
brightly, with its yellow curls and rosy neck. 
It seemed to trot along like a tiny child, and Mr. 
Puckler could almost hear the pattering of the 
bronze kid slippers on the pavement as it ran. 
But it went very fast, and he could only just keep 
up with it, tearing along with his hat on the back 
of his head and his thin hair blown by the night 
breeze, and his horn-rimmed spectacles firmly set 
upon his broad nose. 

On and on he wtnt, and he had no idea w^here 
he was. He did not ex en care, for he knew cer- 
tainly that he was going the right way. 

Then at last, in a wide, quiet street, he was 
standing before a big, sober-looking door that had 
two lamps on each side of it, and a polished brass 
bell-handle, which he pulled. 

And just inside, when the door was opened, in 
the bright light, there was the little shadow, and 
the pale green sheen of the little silk dress, and 
once more the small cry came to bis ears, less piti- 
ful, more longing. 

" Pa-pa ! " 



THE DOLL'S GHOST 301 

The shadow turned suddenly bright, and out of 
the brightness the beautiful brown glass eyes were 
turned up happily to his, while the rosy mouth 
smiled so divinely that the phantom doll looked 
almost like a little angel just then. 

"A little girl was brought in soon after ten 
o'clock/' said the quiet voice of the hospital door- 
keeper. " I think they thought she was only 
stunned. She was holding a big brown-paper box 
against her, and they could not get it out of her 
arms. She had a long plait of brown hair that 
hung down as they carried her." 

" She is my little girl," said Mr. Puckler, but he 
hardly heard his own voice. 

He leaned over Else's face in the gentle light 
of the children's ward, and when he had stood 
there a minute the beautiful brown eyes opened 
and looked up to his. 

" Pa-pa ! " cried Else, softly, " I knew you would 
come ! " 

Then Mr. Puckler did not know what he did or 
said for a moment, and what he felt was worth all 
the fear and terror and despair that had almost 
killed him that night. But by and by Else was 
telling her story, and the nurse let her speak, for 
there were only two other children in the room, 
who were getting well and were sound asleep. 

"They were big boys with bad faces," said Else, 



302 WANDERING GHOSTS 

" and they tried to get Nina away from me, but I 
held on and fought as well as I could till one of 
them hit me with something, and I don't remember 
any more, for I tumbled down, and I suppose the 
boys ran away, and somebody found me there. 
But I'm afraid Nina is all smashed." 

" Here is the box," said the nurse. '' We could 
not take it out of her arms till she came to herself. 
Should you like to see if the doll is broken ? " 

And she undid the string cleverly, but Nina was 
all smashed to pieces. Only the gentle light of 
the children's ward made a pale green sheen in the 
folds of the little Mother Hubbard frock. 



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By the naturalness of their conversation and behavior they seem to live and 
lay hold of our human sympathy more than the same characters on a stage 
could possibly do," — New York Times. 

The Witch of Prague (Bohemia) 

" Mr. Crawford has scored a decided triumph, for the interest of the tale is 
sustained throughout. ... A very remarkalale, powerful, and interesting 
story." — New York Tribune. 

Arethusa (Constantinople) 

One of the most spirited of Mr. Crawford's tales. The scenes are laid in 
Constantinople, when the constant plotting of the fourteenth century made 
adventures an everyday occurrence. 

Fair Margaret. A Portrait (Paris and Versailles) 

"An exhilarating romance . . . alluring in its naturalness and grace." — 
Boston Herald. 

The Primadonna (New York and London) 

"'The Primadonna' develops into a cosmopolitan novel with an unusual 
^lot." — Chicago Record-Herald. 

The Diva's Ruby (Bayreuth, etc.) 

" With one sweep of his pencil, Mr. Crawford has encircled the entire world, 
and we have in his latest book a drawing together of almost all the nations 
of the earth." — Louisville Eveni?ig Post. 

Saracinesca 

" The work has two distinct merits, either of which would serve to make it 
great, — that of telling a perfect story in a perfect way, and of giving a 
graphic picture of Roman society in the last days of the Pope's temporal 
power. . . . The story is exquisitely told." — Boston Traveler, 



r 



MR. CRAWFORD'S COMPLETE WORKS — QmHmed 



Sant' Hario. A Sequel to " Saracinesca " 

" A singularly powerful and beautiful story. ... It fulfills every require- 
ment of artistic fiction. It is natural, fluent in evolution, accordant with 
experience, graphic in description, penetrating in analysis, and absorbing 
in interest." — New York Tribune. 

Don Orsino. A Sequel to " Sant' Ilario " 

" Perhaps the cleverest novel of the year. . . , There is not a dull para- 
graph in the book, and the reader may be assured that once begun, the 
story of ' Don Orsino' will fascinate him until its close." — The Critic. 

Taquisara 

" To Mr. Crawford's Roman novels belongs the supreme quality of uniting 
subtly drawn characters to a plot of uncommon interest." — Chicago Tribune, 

Corleone 

" Mr. Crawford is the novelist born ... a natural story teller." — The Inter- 
Ocean, Chicago. 

Casa Braccio. In two volumes, $2.00. Illustrated by A. 
Castaigne. 

" Mr. Crawford's books have life, pathos, and insight ; he tells a dramatic 
story with many exquisite touches." — New York Sun. 

A Roman Singer 

" None but a genuine artist could have made so true a picture of human 
life, crossed by human passions and interwoven with human weakness. It 
is a perfect specimen of literary art." — The Newark Advertiser. 

Marzio's Crucifix 

"As a story, ' Marzio's Crucifix' is perfectly constructed." — New York 
Commercial Advertiser. 

Heart of Rome. A Tale of the Lost Water 

" Mr. Crawford has written a story of absorbing interest, a story with a 
genuine thrill in it; he has drawn his characters with a sure and brilliant 
touch." — New York Times Saturday Review. 

Cecilia. A Story of Modern Rome 

"... A strong, interesting, dramatic story, with the picturesque Roman 
setting beautifully handled as only a master's touch could do it." — Phila- 
delphia Evening Telegraph, 

Whosoever Shall Offend 

"It is a story sustained from beginning to end by an ever increasing 
dramatic quality." — New York Evening Post. 

An American Politician. The scenes are laid in Boston 

" It need scarcely be said that the story is skilfully and picturesquely written, 
portraying sharply individual characters in well-defined surroundings." — 
New York Commercial Advertiser. 



MR. CRAWFORD'S COMPLETE "WORKS — Continued 



The Three Fates 

" Taken for all in all, it is one of the most pleasing of all his productions in 
fiction." — Boston Beacon, 

Marion Darche 

" A most interesting and engrossing book. Every page unfolds new possi- 
bilities, and the incidents multiply rapidly." — Detroit Free Press. 

" We are disposed to rank ' Marion Darche ' as the best of Mr. Crawford's 
American stories." — TAe Literary World. 

Katharine Lauderdale 

"A most admirable novel, excellent in style, flashing with humor, a«d full 
of the ripest and wisest reflections upon men and women." — The West- 
minster Gazette. 

The Ralstons. A Sequel to " Katharine Lauderdale " 

" It is the first time, we think, in American fiction that any such breadth of 
view has shown itself in the study of our social framework." — Life. 

The Little City of Hope. With illustrations by W. Benda, 
and marginal decorations in color. Decorated cloth. 
i2mo, $1.25. 

A Tale of a Lonely Parish 

" It is a pleasure to have anything so perfect of its kind as this brief and 
vivid story. ..." — Critic, 

Dr. Claudius. A True Story 

The scene changes from Heidelberg to New York, and much of the story 
develops during the ocean voyage. 

Pietro Ghisleri 

"The imaginative richness, the marvelous ingenuity of the plot, the power 
and subtlety of the portrayal of character, the charm of the romantic environ- 
ment, — the entire atmosphere, indeed, — rank this novel at once among 
the great creations." — The Boston Budget. 

To Leeward 

" The four characters with whose fortunes this novel deals are, perhaps, the 
most brilliantly executed portraits in the whole of Mr. Crawford's long pic- 
ture gallery, while for swift dramatic action none of the novels surpasses 
this one." — The News and Courier. 

A Lady of Rome 

" A story of universal interest, most human in its attractiveness, but empha- 
sized in its characters that are no longer 'Roman,' but Italian," — New 
York Times. 

Paul Patoff (Constantinople) 

"Mr. Crawford has a marked talent for assimilating local color, not to 
make mention of a broader historical sense. Even though he may adopt, 
as it is the romancer's right to do, the extreme romantic view of history, it 
is always a living and moving picture that he evolves for us, varied and 
stirring." — New York Evening Post. 



MR. CRAWFORD'S COMPLETE 170RKS—ConUmed 



Marietta (Venice) 

" He has gone back to the field of his earlier triumphs, and has, perhaps, 
scored the greatest triumph of them all." — New York Herald. 

A Cigarette Maker's Romance (Munich) 

and Khaled. A Tale of Arabia 

"Two gems of subtle analysis of human passion and motive." — Times, 

"The interest is unflagging throughout. Never has Mr, Crawford done 
more brilliant realistic work than here." — New York Tribune. 

In the Palace of the King (Spain) 

" ' In the Palace of the King ' is a masterpiece ; there is a picturesqueness, 
a sincerity which will catch all readers in an agreeable storm of emotion, 
and even leave a hardened reviewer impressed and delighted." — Litera- 
ture, London. 

Children of the King (Calabria) 

" One of the most artistic and exquisitely finished pieces of work that Craw- 
ford has produced. ... As a whole the book is strong and beautiful through 
its simplicity, and ranks among the choicest of the author's many fine pro- 
ductions." — Public Opinion. 

Via Crucis. A Romance of the Second Crusade. Illustrated 
by Louis Loeb. 

" ' Via Crucis ' . . . A tale of former days, possessing an air of reality and 
an absorbing interest such as few writers since Scott have been able to ac- 
complish when dealing with historical characters." — Boston Transcript. 

With the Immortah 

" The book will be found to have a fascination entirely new for the habitual 
reader of novels. Indeed, Mr. Crawford has succeeded in taking his read- 
ers quite above the ordinary plane of novel interest." — Boston Advertiser. 



ILLUSTRATED DESCRIPTIVE BOOKS 

BY F. MARION CRAWFORD 

Salve Venetia ! 

Gleanings from History. Richly illustrated with 29 photogravure plates, 
and 220 illustrations in the text from drawings by Mr. Joseph Pennell. In 
two volumes, cloth, 8vo, in a box, ^5 net. 

Ave Roma ImmortaUs. In one volume, profusely illus- 
trated. Cloth, 8vo, $2.50 net. 

" It is the most interesting book I ever read about Rome. It fascinates 
me." — Dr. Weir Mitchell. 

Southern Italy and Sicily and the Rulers of the South. 

Fully illustrated, cloth, 8vo, $2.50 net. 

" Uncommonly tangible and vivid, so that . . . each heroic or sinister or 
pathetic figure stands out effectively m its proper place." — New York 
Tribune. 



Mr. jack LONDON'S NOVELS, Etc. 

Eachy in decorated cloth binding, $1.^0 

Adventure 

A strong, fascinating novel of the white man's mastery in the South 
Seas. 

Burning Daylight Cloth, izmo 

" By all odds the most interesting, as well as the most wholesome, 
long story Mr. London has written." — Nation. 

The Call of the Wild illustrated in colors 

"A big story in sober English, and with thorough art in the con- 
struction; a wonderfully perfect bit of work ; a book that will be 
heard of long. The dog's adventures are as exciting as any man's 
exploits could be, and Mr. London's workmanship is wholly satisfy- 
ing." — The New York Sun. 

The Sea-Wolf illustrated in colors 

"Jack London's *The Sea- Wolf is marvellously truthful. . . . Read- 
ing it through at a sitting, we have found it poignantly interesting ; 
... a superb piece of craftsmanship." — The New York Tribune. 

White Fang illustrated in colors 

"A thrilhng story of adventure . . . stirring indeed . . . and it 
touches a chord of tenderness that is all too rare in Mr. London's 
work." — Record-Heraldy Chicago. 

Before Adam illustrated in colors 

"The story moves with a wonderful sequence of interesting and 
wholly credible events. . . . From an artistic standpoint the book is 
an undoubted success. And it is no less a success from the stand- 
point of the reader who seeks to be entertained." — The Plain Dealer, 
Cleveland. 

Martin Eden Cloth, i2mo 

"The elemental strength, the vigor and determination, of Martin 
Eden make him the most interesting character that Mr. London has 
ever created. — Chicago Inter- Ocean. 



PUBLISHED BV. 

THE MACMILLAN COMPi^^Y 

64-66 Fifth Avenue, New York 



Mr. WINSTON CHURCHILL'S NOVELS 

Eachy cloth, gilt tops and titles, $1,^0 

The Celebrity. An Episode 

** No such piece of inimitable comedy in a literary way has appeared 
for years. ... It is the purest, keenest fun." — Chicago Inter- Ocean. 

Richard Carvel "*■ illustrated 

"... In breadth of canvas, massing of dramatic effect, depth of feel- 
ing, and rare wholesomeness of spirit, it has seldom, if ever, been 
surpassed by an American romance." — Chicago Tribune, 

The Crossing illustrated 

"*The Crossing' is a thoroughly interesting book, packed vi^ith excit- 
ing adventure and sentimental incident, yet faithful to historical fact 
both in detail and in spirit." — The Dial. 

The Crisis illustrated, 

" It is a charming love story, and never loses its interest. . . . The 
intense political bitterness, the intense patriotism of both parties, are 
shown understandingly." — Evening Telegraphy Philadelphia. 

Coniston illustrated 

"'Coniston ' has a lighter, gayer spirit, and a deeper, tenderer touch 
than Mr. Churchill has ever achieved before. ... It is one of the 
truest and finest transcripts of modern American life thus far achieved 
in our fiction. " — Chicago Record- Her aid, 

Mr. Crewe's Career illustrated 

" One of the best stories of American life ever written. ... It is 
written out of a sympathy that goes deep. . . . We go on to the end 
with growing appreciation. ... It is good to have such a book." 

A Modern Chronicle illustrated 

A new story along lines which are distinctly novel to Mr. Churchill. 



PUBLISHED BY 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

64-66 Fifth Avenue, New York 



RECENT MACMILLAN NOVELS 



The Justice of the King 

By HAMILTON DRUMMOND 

There is pain in it, an old King's bitter suspicion lest his son be not 
content to wait; there is cold hate and hot revenge in its pages, — 
but these are shadows which intensify the charm of tender love- 
making and the intense loyalty of youth. 

Cloth f $1,20 net ; by mail, $1.32 

Trevor Lordship 

By Mrs. HUBERT BARCLAY 

A pbasant novel of an uncommon kind ; its love problem arises 
between two married folk ; each fears that the other's love sleeps, 
and each dreads to move lest it — fail to awake. The social setting 
of the story is particularly enjoyable. 

Clothy <$i.20 net ; by mail, $1.32 

While Caroline was Growing 

By JOSEPHINE DASKAM BACON 

" Caroline " needs no introduction to readers of " The Biography 
of a Boy," etc., and every one who has ever come into contact 'ath 
the mentality of ?. growing girl will find in the story a deal of : ) m- 
pathetic entertainment. 

Cloth, Si.jo 

Klaus Hinrich Baas 

By GUSTAV FRENSSEN 

The Story of a Self-made Man. A thoroughly remarkable 
novel is this story of the rise of a physically strong, proud German 
peasant. There is a similarity between some of the conditions 
described and those existing in this country which gives the book 
a peculiar interest to Americans. In many ways it is the most 
powerfully interesting novel of the spring season. 

Cloth, Si'jo 



PUBLISHED BY 

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

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